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Ecological Niches and Biogeography: Mountain Gorillas, Bamboo and Climate


As an Undergraduate Environmental Sciences or Biological Sciences teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to teach about ecological niches– their characteristics and the factors that affect them- and the biogeography of a species. More specifically, this lesson plan will teach your students about the implications of climate-induced disturbed ecosystems on the ecological niches and the biogeographical distribution of Mountain Gorillas; and about the scientific strategies employed to prevent this and thereby, aid in their conservation.

Mountain Gorillas inhabit sub-montane and montane habitats in two regions of Central Africa- the Bwindi and the Virunga areas bordering the countries of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. These isolated populations are effectively ecological islands, as the lower reaches of these regions are inhabited by rural communities. Environmental degradation due to climate change and anthropogenic activities is severely affecting the natural dietary and ranging patterns of Mountain Gorillas, and thereby endangering their survival in the wild. This lesson plan includes resources to help understand these issues. The lesson plan will describe how Bamboo, their preferred food and an integral component of their diet, is now extensively being planted in Uganda to restore degraded forest ecosystems and provide resources for sustainable living and economically viable livelihoods to local human settlements. Thus, Bamboo cultivation helps in restoring the natural habitat and provides sustainable livelihoods to local communities and thereby, help to conserve Mountain Gorillas.

This lesson plan, thus, allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Environmental Sciences or Biological Sciences (Conservation of Endangered Species).

Learning Outcome

The tools in this lesson plan will enable students to:

  1. Learn about ecological niches and the biogeography of a species
  2. Describe the effects of climate related factors on natural ecosystems and biodiversity of a region
  3. Discuss the possible impacts of climate change on the Mountain Gorillas of Central Africa
  4. Explain the importance of growing Bamboo in Africa to restore degraded natural habitats, provide a renewable natural resource, and
    help conserve Mountain Gorillas.

Teacher contributed lesson plan by Lukato Denis and Nandala Isaac Fred (Nyabyeya Forestry College); Dr Catherine A Masao (Institute of Resource Assessment, University of Dar es Salaam); Marceline Kabanzira (AUC); Sheba Ndagire (UAIA); and Rashedah Agero (Msitu Institute, Uganda).

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