University of Cape Town professor Michael Meadows and others found that winter rainfall for the province would decrease as the planet warmed due to a build-up of greenhouse gases.
Some projections estimated that annual rainfall would reduce between 10 to 30% in winter rainfall zones by 2050, threatening more than 5 500 endemic plant species.
“These plants are tough and they are already used to dry conditions. But further aridity could make fires more frequent as well, which could damage the soils and make it even harder for the native plants to survive here,” Meadows said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, this is their only native habitat, so such a change here might eventually threaten their very existence.”
The project was funded by the National Science Foundation in the US, and published in the Climate of the Past journal recently.
The scientists extracted earth sediment samples from Verlorenvlei, an elongated former estuary at Eland’s Bay on the West Coast. They also looked at ice core data from Antarctica.
Through the samples they reconstructed the history of the lake level fluctuations over the past 1800 years to show past rainfall patterns in the area.