Data from: Assessing the vulnerability of Africa's freshwater fishes to climate change: a continent-wide trait-based analysis
Nyboer, Elizabeth A.; Liang, Chris; Chapman, Lauren J. (2019), Data from: Assessing the vulnerability of Africa's freshwater fishes to climate change: a continent-wide trait-based analysis, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.8fp561k
Climate change is a key driver of biodiversity loss across the globe, and freshwater fishes are predicted to be among the most vulnerable taxa. African freshwater ecosystems are home to one of the most unique and diverse ichthyo-faunas on the planet, and freshwater fish species provide essential livelihoods for millions of people living in riparian communities across the continent. Although nearly one sixth of African freshwater fishes have been designated as endangered or vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List assessment, the effects of climate change on these species have not been explored on a continent-wide scale. In this study, we present the first trait-based climate change vulnerability assessment (CCVA) comprising the majority (85%) of Africa's currently described freshwater fishes. We assembled data relating to three dimensions of vulnerability including sensitivity, adaptive capacity, and exposure. In addition, we developed an index of ‘conservation value’ based on traditional conservation metrics including extinction risk, endemism, and provision of ecosystem services. We found that almost 40% of African freshwater fishes are vulnerable to climate change, mostly owing to the many species with highly specialized habitat and life-history requirements, and because of the numerous anthropogenic stressors they face. High proportions of species within the Nothobranchiidae and Cichlidae families were found to be vulnerable. Regions with high frequencies of vulnerable species included the African rift valley lakes, the Congo River drainage, and the coastal rivers of West Africa. Several important data deficiencies were identified relating to species' population sizes, genetic variability, and life history traits, and constitute priority research areas for the future. In addition, we highlighted some cases where traditional conservation approaches overlook species and regions that are predicted to be threatened by climate change.