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A new study published in Diversity and Distributions forecasts huge range declines for Africa’s great apes, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Climate change, land-use changes, and human population growth are all factors in the estimated change.

The best-case scenario in the study that outlines the effects of land use, Climate change, and human population is harrowing. Scientists predict that the “best-case” scenario predicts an 85 percent loss of range by 2050, the worst-case scenario is 94 percent range loss. The worst-case scenario means emissions go unchecked where the best case includes emissions mitigation.

Joana Carvalho, a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Science, Liverpool John Moores University, lead author of the study says: “By integrating future climate and land-use changes as well as human population scenarios, this study provides strong evidence for synergistic interactions among key global drivers constraining African ape distribution. Importantly, massive range loss is widely expected outside protected areas, which reflects the insufficiency of the current network of protected areas in Africa to preserve suitable habitats for great apes and effectively connect great ape populations.”

To complete the study, the authors compiled information from African ape databases that included 20 years of research on populations, threats, and Conservation for hundreds of habitats.

Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and a co-author of the study, said: “As Climate change forces the different types of vegetation to essentially shift uphill, it means that all animals — not only great apes — that depend on particular habitat types will be forced to move uphill along with the vegetation, or become locally extinct. And when the hills are low, many species, great and small, will not be able go higher than the land allows, and huge numbers of animals and plants will simply vanish.”

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