How to balance Eco-systems to check Climate change effects

Francis Ruhinirwa a Senior Conservation Educator and Officer in charge of conservation education at Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre – UWEC, commonly known as Entebbe Zoo, defines an ecosystem as a functional, stable, self-sustaining unit that results from the interactions of abiotic and biotic components of the environment.

An ecosystem can be a forest, wetland, Savannah, open water, and marine. Each of these ecosystems has a role to play in the climate crisis the world is facing today.

The ecosystems are responsible for sustaining life on earth but these must be healthy enough to register success, in not only supporting life on land and in water, but to also play the saviour role in the climate change dilemma.

Ruhinirwa explains that an ecosystem has two processes through which it maintains the ecological balance; first, the cyclic flow of material from the Physical (abiotic) environment to the biosphere and then back to the physical environment. And second, the biosphere upholding the balance of interaction inside food webs.

“Both processes must be maintained in the ecosystem and any interference with these cycles disrupts and affects ecological balance which may result into undesirable weather and climatic effects” noted Ruhinirwa.

Because of failing balances in the ecosystem due to unsustainable use, coupled with the greenhouse emissions, the world’s temperatures have continued to rise, making life difficult to many species of flora and fauna to thrive in places where they once lived.

Scientists estimate that 8% of current animal species are at risk of extinction due to climate change alone. Near the equator, a region with Earth’s highest biodiversity, many species are not able to adapt to rising temperatures. It is also estimated that by 2070 nearly 20% of tropical plant species will be unable to germinate because of temperatures beyond their upper limit.

The ecosystems and the biodiversity are natural carbon sinks, that provide nature-based solutions to climate change and that is why it is important to protect manage, and restore the ecosystems. Forests, for example, offer roughly two-thirds of the total mitigation potential of all nature-based solutions.

About one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed in the next decade could be achieved by improving nature’s ability to absorb emissions.

Ritah Atukwase holding an invasive weed on the waters of lake Victoria

Leo Mercer, an Environmental policy analyst who works on a variety of UK net-zero policy areas, notes that, once the nature-based solutions are well designed, they can play a powerful role in reducing temperatures over the remainder of the century.

A synthesis of available evidence indicates that, under a moderately ambitious scenario, nature-based solutions could avoid or remove up to 10 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 equivalent per year up to 2050, with 85% of these saved emissions a result of changed land management practices, such as incorporating agroforestry into conventional agricultural practices.

Cities and Climate change

According to the United Nations Report on Cities and Climate Change, urban centres are key contributors to climate change, because of the many urban activities, that are sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Estimates suggest that cities are responsible for 75 percent of global CO2 emissions, with transport and buildings being among the largest contributors.

Uganda is currently emitting 24% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and much of it is coming from the country’s capital city Kampala.

Eco friendly constructions like green roof tops, green spaces buildings and wooden buildings and creating more green spaces are more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the urban setups like Kampala.

Part of the remaining Kitubulu forest reserve in Entebbe municipality

Ritah Atukwase, a horticulturist working with UWEC, sees no problem with having forests in the middle of the city because this will help in improving the air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing that supports life during the photosynthesis process.

The floods in Kampala and her suburbs is a clear indicator of climate change effects due to the reclaimed once swampy areas that got degraded for developments into the current city.

Atukwase explains that wetlands do not only provide a livelihood to people, as sources of food, water and other raw materials for building and crafts; these control floods, by storing huge amounts of surface runoff water and more importantly they are biodiversity hotspots and carbon sinks, making them nature’s solution to the climate emergency.

“In fact, wetlands store more carbon than any other ecosystem on earth. They store twice as much as all the world’s forests. If Kampala’s wetlands weren’t tampered with, the city would be better in terms of controlling floods and the air quality,” stressed Atukwase.

A study by The Conservation Fund found that wetlands store 81 to 216 metric tons of carbon per acre, depending on their type and location. This makes wetlands a resource for carbon sequestration but the other unfortunate part is that, once destroyed they can cause significant carbon emissions which they have been storing for many years.

Uganda is mainly covered by Savannas which vary depending on altitude and temperatures. The earth’s savanna coverage is about 20% and if well managed, these can provide mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change.

Four of Uganda’s National parks; Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo, Lake Mburo and Murchison Falls, are savannah parks with several animal species that make the ecosystem complete and balanced to check climate change challenges.

However, the increasing population and developments around these gazetted wildlife spaces threaten the nature-based solutions to climate change these parks are providing.

A buffalo in Kidepo valley national park, making its final kicks before dying as a result of lack of water

The Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) a national body mandated to protect these parks, Sam Mwandha, says they are working to maintain and improve the parks amidst challenges of global warming by increasing animal species numbers through translocations between parks, improving the quality of the natural habitats by fighting invasive plant species that may affect the indigenous ecosystem, planting more trees in the forested National parks and the sloppy lands plus managing wildfires, and restoring degraded areas.

“We are doing all these to always keep alert in the wild face of climate change, which has greatly affected our neighbours in Kenya. Our problem in the parks cannot be food but rather water and we plan to build dams in L. Mburo and Kidepo National parks that are sometimes affected by water scarcity during the dry seasons,” Says Mwandha.

The UWA boss maintains that because of the increasing population around the parks, some people are pressuring UWA to de-gazette some land for them. He says, this will make the parks and game reserves more vulnerable to climate change effects because human activities come with a lot of environmental destruction.

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria a fresh water body found in Uganda and the biggest in Africa, is facing degradation and giving room to climate change challenges within the basin.

In 2020, with support from the Cooperation in International Water in Africa (CIWA), a multi-sectoral team led by the World Bank Water Global Practice set out to identify the key drivers of the continued degradation of this precious transboundary lake in the East African region.

Apart from plastic wastes, the team identified, untreated wastewater and effluents from urban areas and a wide range of industries as key pollutions into this lake and its catchments.

As a result of these drivers, invasive plant species such as water hyacinth flourish, obstructing navigation and power generation, turbidity and anoxic (lacking oxygen) zones increase, depleting fish stock and biodiversity.

The World Bank estimates that tens of millions of lake basin residents will be displaced by climate change by the year 2050 if the degradation trend continues at the rate it is on now.

One of the Valley dams in Karamoja region which dried up due to prolonged drought

Proper lake functioning can ease the impact of floods and droughts by storing large amounts of water and releasing it during shortages. Lakes also work to refill groundwater, positively influence water quality of downstream watercourses, and preserve the biodiversity and habitat of the area.

Lakes just like other ecosystems, when respected and cared for, the world is assured of a healthy balanced environment which is key in solving climate change extremes of flooding and global warming that are disastrous.

The Twaweza report of November 2022, titled “The Heat is On,” that elaborates how Ugandan citizens view and experience climate change. indicated that majority of the Ugandans understand climate change and its effects and a big number attributes it to cutting down of trees.

34% can explain the term “climate change” as referring to changes in daily weather conditions and patterns, 30% say it refers to changes in patterns of rain and sun, whereas 17% say it refers to changing wet and dry seasons. Overall, meaning 81% can explain climate change as referring to changes in the weather,” the report states in part. (See

However, much as many are aware of the climate change crisis, 53% say it’s unnecessary to stop it. Maria Nanyanzi the Senior Program Officer of Twaweza East Africa, explained that the 53% who feel there’s no need to tackle climate change effects, haven’t been directly affected by the weather extremes of drought and floods

From such data, those that have experienced shortages and delays in rains among other climate change effects, are more likely to say there is need for climate action unlike those who are yet to observe that climate change is real,” Nanyanzi explained.

She observed that more sensitisation among Ugandans, will them connect the dots of climate change and its effects. As to who should be held responsible for stopping climate change, according to this report, most citizens place the responsibility on the government.

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