Assessing the effects of past and future climate change on Amazonian biodiversity (CLAMBIO)
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung
Climate change affects life at all levels, from genetic structure of animal and plant populations to socioeconomic organization of human communities. For Amazonia, current models project warmer and drier climates, which could make large areas unsuitable for species adapted to moist rainforest conditions and increase the susceptibility of vegetation to wildfires, thereby promoting savannization. This, in turn, would reduce biodiversity, biomass, carbon storage and productivity of the forests, as well as further reduce local rainfall and affect river water levels through impacts on water circulation. Climate has changed also in the past, which has probably caused reorganizations of the Amazonian biota. Studies on these past events can help to estimate possible impacts of climate change in the future. We will integrate data on species distributions, genomics and community phylogenetics to reconstruct the recent demographic history of populations in selected plant and animal groups, and infer how past climate changes have impacted habitat stability, dispersal and local extinctions. Present-day environmental data will be used to characterise suitable habitats and identify the most important constraints on the plant and animal species distributions, and to model how the distributions of suitable habitats may change in the future, given current climate scenarios and the likely increasing risk of forest fires. These results will be integrated to estimate the degree of both uniqueness and vulnerability of biological communities across Amazonia. Because riverine and indigenous peoples depend on the forests for their livelihoods, the studies will be made in close collaboration with indigenous peoples and their organisations in the catchment areas of two major rivers, the Xingu and Negro. The project aims simultaneously to produce new understanding of likely impacts of climate change on Amazonian biodiversity, identify possible mitigation strategies, and assist the affected peoples in recognising the trends and communicating their needs to the policymakers.