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Climate change research in southern Africa in recent two decades: progress, needs, and policy implications

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Southern Africa is a diverse region harbouring exceptional natural and cultural values, which are increasingly threatened by climate change. We investigated the progress of climate change research in ten countries in the region during 2000–2019. We reviewed 972 publications included in the Scopus database, which addressed different aspects of climate change and explicitly referred to the management, adaptation, or mitigation actions. We found that the number of such focused publications started to increase rapidly after 2004. The majority of publications addressed South Africa, while the coverage of the remaining countries was unequal. The largest proportion of the publications addressed agriculture, although social aspects of climate change started to prevail in recent five years. Local case studies dominated, while studies addressing the regional scale and employing model- and Earth Observation–based approaches were less abundant. The proportion of African authors occupying leading positions in the author teams was increasing during the investigated period. International collaboration was an important research driver, and it was particularly developed with European organizations. Publication frequency was mainly driven by the level of social and economic globalization expressed by the KOF Globalization Index. Although we identified numerous positive trends, issues such as geographical imbalance, the prevalence of local studies, and insufficient use of advanced methodologies are aspects deserving recognition in future research planning. Our findings suggest an increasing ability of African authors to contribute to the global discussions about climate change as well as improving options for the science-based formulation of continental and regional policies.

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We acknowledge the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for contributing to this research by supporting SASSCAL.


This research was funded by the OPRDE grant number “EVA4.0”, No.CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000803X.

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Correspondence to Tomáš Hlásny.

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Communicated by Virginia Burkett

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Kapuka, A., Hlásny, T. & Helmschrot, J. Climate change research in southern Africa in recent two decades: progress, needs, and policy implications. Reg Environ Change 22, 18 (2022).

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