Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate change: A risk for plants and animals worldwide

07.10.2011
Climate change entails a risk for ecosystems on all continents.

Scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have now identified the scale of danger for animals and plants in a worldwide analysis.

For that purpose, they developed a novel measure that for the first time systematically quantifies the impacts of changes in CO2 concentration in the air as well as in temperature and rainfall on terrestrial ecosystems. Computer simulations show that global warming could lead to an expansion of the Kazakh steppe but also lets forests grow in the presently treeless tundra.

If global mean temperature rises more than two to three degrees, the impacts in many regions can be drastically amplified.

“Until now, the impacts of climate change on the biosphere have not been quantified very well, certainly not on a global scale,” says Ursula Heyder, lead author of the study now published in the renowned scientific journal Environmental Research Letters. “We wanted to understand comprehensively which amount of warming puts which biotopes under pressure.” Therefore, the research team developed a biogeochemical measure that captures underlying processes in the material cycles. “If something changes here, it is very likely that the concerned ecosystems will change as a whole – down to the smallest bug,” says Heyder. “Because we cannot simulate this whole complexity with a computer, we calculate the risk for such changes considering the processes most relevant to ecosystems.”

The largest changes would probably affect those forests where the cooler climatic zones of the continental interiors of Asia and America transition into moderate latitudes. The study shows that here a larger number of cold-favoring plants could recede because of heat stress, more so than more warmth-tolerant species can take their place. The primeval forests at the Amazon, of significant importance for the world´s climate, are also affected due to possible shifts in their biogeochemical conditions, i.e. shifts in their water and carbon balance.

In cold natural habitats, nature already reacts to a warming of only two degrees – a magnitude already seen as an ambitious target in climate protection. For ecosystems in moderate latitudes, it makes a substantial difference whether temperatures rise by two degrees, three degrees or more: the risk of changes in the flora increase sharply. Up to now, the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions pledged by a number of states after the Climate Summit in Copenhague sums up to a global warming in excess of three degrees in global means and could hence cause severe environmental changes.

“Nature adapts to climate changes by shifts within the ecosystems,” emphasizes Wolfgang Lucht, co-author of the study and head of PIK´s research domain Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities. These changes are simply changes, not necessarily good or bad. “But whereas humankind can try to adapt societies to climate change, for example by dyke construction or crop breeding, ecosystems cannot – their change is fundamental,” Lucht explains. “Some simply disappear and are replaced by others.” Some relocate to the North or South, impeded by the speed of change, with impacts that are difficult to foresee. “Ecosystems are a precious good,” says Lucht. “At stake is the natural heritage of humankind.”

The calculations were carried out for 58 different climate projections to study a broad range of possible future developments. This also allowed to differentiate regions with larger uncertainty of the conclusions from those where changes seem certain. All projections show, however, that the majority of Earth´s land surfaces may be affected by moderate or severe changes of environmental characteristics unless comprehensive climate protection succeeds.

Article: Ursula Heyder, Sibyll Schaphoff, Dieter Gerten and Wolfgang Lucht: Risk of severe climate change impact on the terrestrial biosphere; Environmental Research Letters, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/6/3/034036

Weblink to article: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/034036

For further information please contact the PIK press office:

Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-mail: press@pik-potsdam.de

Mareike Schodder | PIK Potsdam
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/034036

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>