Winners and losers: Climate change will shift vegetation
Projected global warming will likely decrease the extent of temperate drylands by a third over the remainder of the 21st century coupled with an increase in dry deep soil conditions during agricultural growing season.
All of this to simulate the current climate as well as 16 possible future climates.
The variety of possible future climates gave pretty consistent outcomes, lending credibility to the results," says Professor Scott Wilson, visiting researcher at Umeå University and researcher within CIRC.
As the global climate warms this expansion will likely continue.
The certainty of the forecasts is particularly important as warming leads to shifts from temperate to subtropical drylands, which leads to changes in precipitation and soil moisture, which in turn has profound effects on ecological services, provided to humanity, including the viability of certain temperate agricultural systems.
This uncertainty is changing because of improved supercomputer modelling of the movement of water through ecosystems, based on 20,000 locations around the world.
The results suggest that climate change will convert much of the area currently occupied by temperate grasslands and deserts to subtropical vegetation with effects on associated wildlife and human populations.
The impacts can have large consequences for humanity.
"Further, these subtropical drylands are home to aggressive diseases such as dengue and schistosomiasis.
Given the predicted changes to dryland habitats globally, the outcome of this research is essential for developing strategies for adaptation by policy makers."