CR 06:97-106 (1996)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr006097

Methods for assessing the vulnerability of African fisheries resources to climate change

Hlohowskyj I, Brody MS, Lackey RT

Because of the dietary and financial importance of fisheries resources in many African countries, concerns have been expressed regarding the potential for adverse impacts to fisheries resources from climate change, and a need has been identified for assessment tools that can evaluate the potential for impacts in a timely and cost-effective manner. This paper presents a framework and set of methods for assessing the potential effects of climate change on fisheries resources in Africa. The framework identifies the need to first link predicted climate changes to changes in the aquatic environment, and only then can potential impacts to aquatic resources be evaluated. The approach developed for Africa was constrained by several factors, including availability of existing data and assessment technologies, and the need for a rapid evaluation of potential climate impacts. The assessment approach employs a variety of methods including empirical models which predict changes in mortality, maximum sustainable yield, and yearly catch, a bioenergetics model, and a habitat suitability model. Previously developed or newly derived site-specific empirical models can be used to compare mortality, yield, and annual catch estimates among historic, current, and predicted climate conditions. Similarly, bioenergetics modeling can be used to compare growth rates and biomass production among different climate conditions. Habitat suitability models can be developed for current climate conditions, and the effects of changes in climate-driven habitat variables such as water depth, temperature, and current velocity on habitat suitability can be evaluated for different climate conditions. Use of these approaches is recommended because they can utilize existing ecological data and do not require extensive new data collection activities, they are not technologically complex, and they can provide evaluations of potential climate change impacts in a timely and cost-effective manner.


Bioenergetics model · Climate change · Empirical models · Fish yield · Habitat suitability index · Tropical freshwater fisheries


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