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The Future of East Africa in a CO2-Enriched and Warmer World
Reference
Doherty, R.M., Sitch, S., Smith, B., Lewis, S.L. and Thornton, P.K. 2010. Implications of future climate and atmospheric CO2 content for regional biogeochemistry, biogeography and ecosystem services across East Africa. Global Change Biology 16: 617-640.

What was done
The authors modeled future changes in land biogeochemistry and biogeography in the region bounded by 12.5N, 12.5S, 25E and 42.5E, representing the whole of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Somalia), as well as portions of Central Africa (the Democratic Republic of Congo and Southern Sudan). This they did using eighteen future climate projections derived from nine general circulation models that figured prominently in the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report, employing the projections as input to the Lund-Potsdam-Jena dynamic global vegetation model that simulates changes in vegetation and ecosystem carbon cycling under future climate conditions, based on what they describe as "a coupled photosynthesis-hydrological scheme [that] computes gross primary productivity, plant respiration, and evapotranspiration on a daily time step based on the current climate, atmospheric CO2 concentration, vegetation structure and phenological state, and soil water content."

What was learned
Doherty et al. report that "all simulations showed future increases in tropical woody vegetation over the region at the expense of grasslands," noting that "regional increases in net primary productivity (18-36%) and total carbon storage (3-13%) by 2080-2099 compared with the present-day were common to all simulations," and that "seven out of nine simulations continued to show an annual net land carbon sink in the final decades of the 21st century because vegetation biomass continued to increase."

What it means
The researchers write that "overall, our model results suggest that East Africa, a populous and economically poor region, is likely to experience some ecosystem service benefits through increased precipitation, river runoff and fresh water availability," and they state that "resulting enhancements in net primary productivity may lead to improved crop yields in some areas." What is more, they specifically state that their results "stand in partial contradiction of other studies that suggest possible negative consequences for agriculture, biodiversity and other ecosystem services caused by temperature increases."

Reviewed 12 May 2010