Project

  • Field of research:   Conservation Paleobiology 
  • Disciplines involved:  Conservation biology, Palaeontology, Spatial Ecology, Macrosystems Ecology, Biodiversity Informatics, Biogeography 
  • Innovative activities:  Here, we propose to form a new programme within IUBS, “Conservation Paleobiology in Africa (CPiA)”, which aims to address conservation needs through unification of the biological sciences by using paleontological information to inform conservation decision making. We propose a combination of innovative activities, including training workshops and capacity building (personnel and infrastructure) for local students and researchers in Africa. 
  • Questions/ issues addressed by the project :
  •  What are long-term prognoses for African ecosystems under different climate change/development scenarios, based on comparison between modern and past ecosystem metrics?
  •  What are the most effective strategies for capacity building between and within African natural history museums and universities?
  • What is the most effective pathway for educating the African museum-going public on biodiversity loss and climate change? 
  • Outcomes expected : We will cultivate a community that integrates paleontological data with conservation to guide our understanding of healthy African ecosystems and use that understanding to model alternate conservation strategies. This work will involve developing new curricula, building capacity through training, developing new conservation metrics, contributing to literature in conservation paleobiology, and contributing informatics tools to our community.  
  • Leaders:
  • Prof. Johannes Muller, Museum fur Naturkunde, Germany 
  • Dr. Jenny McGuire, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, IPA Subscribing Member, pretenure   
  • Dr. Fredrick Kyalo Manthi, National Museums of Kenya, Kenyaba 
  • Steering Committee
  • Duration: 2019-2022
  • IUBS National Committees involved in the project:  Germany, South Africa, and Egypt member countries are involved in the steering committee. Additionally, scientists from Australia, Spain, and Switzerland are involved through our programing. 
  • IUBS Scientific Member Organisations involved in the project:  
    • International Palaeontological Association (IPA

    • International Society of Vertebrate Morphology (ISVM

    • Leadership of the African Union of Conservationists (AUC; Raymond Katebaka) was consulted while formulating this collaborative network. 

About

Introduction:

We must adapt conservation efforts for the fluctuating requirements under global change. However, the scope of impending ecological change is so vast that it can only be effectively informed using the paleontological record. Conservation paleobiology is an emerging field that applies methods and theories of palaeontology to the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Our research program creates a trait-based ecosystem health metric that can be used to identify and restore healthy ecosystems. This new programme within IUBS, “Conservation Paleobiology in Africa (CPiA)”, aims to address these issues through a combination of training and capacity building of local students and researchers in Africa.

 

Background:

Ecosystems of the 22nd century face unprecedented changes both from rapidly changing climates and from human appropriation of land and energy resources. As we endeavour to conserve ecosystems and biological diversity, biologists have realized the necessity of identifying the characteristics that result in resilient ecosystems so that we can prioritize and reconstruct these systems in our conservation efforts. Resilient ecosystems are ones that can maintain function despite change and that resist transitioning across ecological tipping points. However, human behaviour has already influenced today’s ecological systems so much that characterizing resilient ecosystems is not possible without an historical perspective. 

In order to adapt conservation efforts to changing requirements under global changes, a new approach is needed that takes the shifts in climate, species distributions, communities, and natural variability over long time periods into account. One solution is the application of historical data from the emerging field of conservation paleobiology, which applies methods and theories of palaeontology to the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Here we propose to form a new programme within IUBS, “Conservation Paleobiology in Africa (CPiA)”, which aims to address these issues through a combination of training and capacity building of local students and researchers in Africa. 

Africa possesses some of the highest species richness on Earth, preserves megafauna, and records near-continuous fossil and historical records of human-faunal coevolution spanning human origins, tool technology evolution, through to modern industry. 19th-20th century exploitation and 21st century economic expansion has greatly modified African ecosystems and there is an urgent need to quantify human effects on its natural systems. An historical perspective is necessary to save Africa’s unique ecosystems. Fortunately, there are remarkable museums in Africa that curate detailed records of both modern and ancient biodiversity, allowing for the integration of paleontological and modern data to understand and forecast future biotic diversity due to its remaining ecosystem diversity. Despite having extremely limited resources, these museums are able to preserve specimens and maintain repositories while facilitating research that creates incredible insights into human and biological evolution. However, the majority of researchers using these collections are foreign. There are very few remaining resources to train and maintain local scientists with the experience to study their own specimens. Thus, we propose to work with African museums to build a museum training and research network to foster collaborations with local scientists and to create synergistic educational opportunities for local students.  

 

Links with international programmes or networks:  

Participating museums with international programmes and networks :

  • National Museums of Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya) 

  • The National Museum of Ethiopia (Addis Abba, Ethiopia) 

  • Museum für Naturkunde (Berlin, Germany) 

  • University Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge (Cambridge, U.K.) 

  • Mansura University Vertebrate Paleontology Center (Mansura City, Egypt) 

Other participating international programmes and networks :

  • Global Change Program, Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA, U.S.A.) 

  • East African Association for Palaeoanthropology and Palaeontology (East Africa) 

  • Gorongosa National Park, Paleo Primate Project (Mozambique)