Potential adaptive strategies for 29 sub-Saharan crops under future climate change
Pironon S., Etherington TR., Borrell JS., Kühn N., Macias-Fauria M., Ondo I., Tovar C., Wilkin P., Willis KJ.
© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. Climate change is expected to severely impact cultivated plants and consequently human livelihoods1–3, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)4–6. Increasing agricultural plant diversity (agrobiodiversity) could overcome this global challenge7–9 given more information on the climatic tolerance of crops and their wild relatives. Using >200,000 worldwide occurrence records for 29 major crops and 778 of their wild relative species, we assess, for each crop, how future climatic conditions are expected to change in SSA and whether populations of the same crop from other continents, wild relatives around the world or other crops from SSA are better adapted to expected future climatic conditions in the region. We show that climate conditions not currently experienced by the 29 crops in SSA are predicted to become widespread, increasing production insecurity, especially for yams. However, crops such as potato, squash and finger millet may be maintained by using wild relatives or non-African crop populations with climatic niches more suited to future conditions. Crop insecurity increases over time and with rising GHG emissions, but the potential for using agrobiodiversity for resilience is less altered. Climate change will therefore affect sub-Saharan agriculture but agrobiodiversity can provide resilient solutions in the short and medium term.