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Researcher Studies Impact of Climate Change, Deforestation in Namibia

A Virginia Tech graduate student is living in one of the hottest and driest countries in the world this semester so that he can study how climate change, land management, and other human-caused phenomena impact a community of animals known as the cavity guild.

Composed of birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and invertebrates, the cavity guild, biologically speaking, is a group of animals that depend on holes and crevices in trees for their nesting sites.

However, Namibia receives only 2-24 inches of rainfall annually, leaving the landscape devoid of large trees. To exacerbate the problem, trees that are able to survive and grow in such a water-scarce environment are subject to removal for charcoal production, a common energy source in Namibia.

"Species in this community are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their habitat needs," said David Millican, of Greensboro, North Carolina, a doctoral student in the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science. "Weather in Namibia is highly variable, with yearly droughts occurring in unpredictable intervals. This variation in weather may likewise cause extreme variations in community dynamics, with some species opting not to breed in years of extreme drought and others altering the timing of their breeding in response to the altered rain schedule."


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