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Using mathematical modelling tools, we assessed the potential for land use change (LUC) associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change low- and high-end emission scenarios (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5) to impact malaria transmission in Africa. To drive a spatially explicit, dynamical malaria model, data from the four available earth system models (ESMs) that contributed to the LUC experiment of the Fifth Climate Model Intercomparison Project are used. Despite the limited size of the ESM ensemble, stark differences in the assessment of how LUC can impact climate are revealed. In three out of four ESMs, the impact of LUC on precipitation and temperature over the next century is limited, resulting in no significant change in malaria transmission. However, in one ESM, LUC leads to increases in precipitation under scenario RCP2.6, and increases in temperature in areas of land use conversion to farmland under both scenarios. The result is a more intense transmission and longer transmission seasons in the southeast of the continent, most notably in Mozambique and southern Tanzania. In contrast, warming associated with LUC in the Sahel region reduces risk in this model, as temperatures are already above the 25-30°C threshold at which transmission peaks. The differences between the ESMs emphasise the uncertainty in such assessments. It is also recalled that the modelling framework is unable to adequately represent local-scale changes in climate due to LUC, which some field studies indicate could be significant.
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