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Climate change-driven forest fires marginalize the impact of ice cap wasting on Kilimanjaro


Andreas Hemp, tel. +49 (0) 921 552630, fax +49 (0) 921 552642, e-mail:


The disappearing glaciers of Kilimanjaro are attracting broad interest. Less conspicuous but ecologically far more significant is the associated increase of frequency and intensity of fires on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, which leads to a downward shift of the upper forest line by several hundred meters as a result of a drier (warmer) climate since the last century. In contrast to common belief, global warming does not necessarily cause upward migration of plants and animals. Here, it is shown that on Kilimanjaro the opposite trend is under way, with consequences more harmful than those due to the loss of the showy ice cap of Africa's highest mountain.