Global Environmental Changes and Their Impact on the Serengeti
This chapter examines the likely global-level environmental changes that will affect the Serengeti, and the impact of these changes on the functioning of the Serengeti ecosystem and its member humans, habitats, flora, and fauna. In particular, it focuses on the impact of elevated atmospheric CO2, climate changes in rainfall and temperature, and increased deposition of nitrogen. The chapter considers both the projections of several different general circulation models and, where data are available, regional observed trends in climate over the past 50 years. Average and variability in rainfall in the Serengeti ecosystem should continue to decline over the next three decades. Temperature is expected to increase by perhaps 1°C over this same time period. CO2 concentrations are expected to increase by another 75–100 ppm. These global changes should result in somewhat lower aboveground productivity but increased nutrient concentrations, creating cascading changes through the diverse food web of the Serengeti. Changes in rainfall may also alter the distribution of grassland versus woodland and free surface water, which will further alter the distributions of wildlife and livestock.
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