The local impacts of climate change in the Ferlo, Western Sahel

L. Hein, Marc Metzger, R. Leemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent increases in the accuracy of climate models have enhanced the possibilities for analyzing the impacts of climate change on society. This paper explores how the local, economic impacts of climate change can be modeled for a specific eco-region, the Western Sahel. The people in the Sahel are highly dependent on their natural resource base, and these resources are highly vulnerable to climate change, in particular to changes in rainfall. Climate models project substantial changes in rainfall in the Sahel in the coming 50 years, with most models predicting a reduction in rainfall. To connect climate change to changes in ecosystem productivity and local income, we construct an ecological–economic model that incorporates rangeland dynamics, grazing and livestock prices. The model shows that decreased rainfall in the Sahel will considerably reduce local incomes, in particular if combined with increases in rainfall variability. Adaptation to these climate change projections is possible if reductions in rainfall are followed by destocking to reach efficient grazing levels. However, while such a strategy is optimal from the perspective of society, the stocking rate is determined by individual pastoralists that face few incentives to destock.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-483
Number of pages19
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2009


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