How do climate and land use changes interact to precipitate biodiversity loss?

Disentangling the dual challenge of climate change and land use change in a biodiversity hotspot.

Elephants in water

Climate change and land use change (such as deforestation) are both rapidly impacting biodiversity all over the world, often interacting in complex and unexpected ways.

ZSL is working to understand the effect of these potential interactions in the W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) transboundary protected area complex, a 36,000 km2 hotspot of West African biodiversity, which experiencing both a changing climate, with increasing occurrence of droughts, and changes in land use in the form of cropland expansion and livestock grazing.

Why we are there

The WAP is a significant biodiversity hotspot for West Africa that is currently under threat from a range of anthropogenic activities, including cropland encroachment and illegal grazing of livestock, which are affecting habitat quality and availability for wildlife.

These threats play out in the context of significant climate variability in the past (including prolonged droughts in the 1970s/1980s) as well as expected significant climate change in the future, placing additional pressure on local biodiversity. This projects aims to elucidate how the WAP’s ecosystems will respond to changes in land use (especially changes in cropland and grazing practices) under future changes in temperature and rainfall, to inform ongoing conservation activities on the ground.


Our work is expected to provide an insight of the current vulnerability of the WAP ecosystems to global environmental changes. This knowledge will help inform future mitigation strategies aimed at conserving local biodiversity.

People involved



  • Panthera

  • WCS


Useful links

How to map 50,000km of savannah without leaving your office