With almost one degree of warming having occurred over the past century, scientific work shows mounting evidence that birds are being negatively affected by the change. Long-term environmental monitoring has indicated that global climate change has already extended plant growing seasons, changed animal and plant distribution patterns, and altered the annual dates of flowering, breeding, and bird migration.
As far as bird migration is concerned, the emerging picture shows that many species that breed in the northern hemisphere have been arriving later than normal in South Africa since the second half of the 20th century. The delayed arrival can result in birds missing important food peaks, which can have disastrous impacts on bird populations.
Birds are excellent indicators of climate change as they are very sensitive to climate and weather. They are also very important indicators because large amounts of information on their behaviour and migration patterns have been collected by members of the public, specifically in the northern hemisphere.
In Britain, for example, the arrival dates of certain migratory birds have been recorded by members of the Royal Meteorological Society since 1883. This very important long-term series of observations has generated a wealth of valuable long-term data in the northern hemisphere. It is this information in particular that has shed light on how bird-migration patterns are affected by climate change.
There is little long-term data available for Africa. Global climate change is likely to affect birds in southern Africa as well, if not already, yet we are still largely unsure of how they are affected.
To help bridge this gap in knowledge SAEON has joined the ranks of organisations involved in gathering information on bird migration.
If you are based in a savanna region and are interested in participating in the project - or have already been collecting such information - please contact Dr Dave Thompson on firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel 013 735 3535/ 013 735 3534 to register as a participant.
Alternatively, download a registration form from http://ndlovu.saeon. ac.za, email it to email@example.com or fax it to 013 7353544.