New research claims that more than half the world’s largest forests will be lost if global temperatures rise by an average of 3 degrees or more by the end of the century.
The Amazon rainforest.
The study, published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that a warmer climate also increases the risk of extreme floods, forest fires and droughts.
Researchers, lead by Dr. Marko Scholze of the University of Bristol, took 52 simulations of the world’s climate over the next century to determine how world’s plants would be affected under various scenarios over the next few hundred years. Scholze found that Eurasia, eastern China, Canada, Central America, and Amazonia are especially at risk of forest loss, while less freshwater availability may produce intense droughts in West Africa, Central America, southern Europe and the eastern United States. Scholze said that tropical Africa and northwest South America will face significant risk of flooding from loss of tree cover as temperatures rise.
The results also suggest that should temperatures climb more than 3°C, land carbon sinks such as soils, forests, and frozen landscapes could release their stored carbon, initiating a positive feedback loop that would increase atmospheric carbon dioxide producing further warming. The research indicates that the “tipping point” where plants to net producers of carbon dioxide could arrive by the middle of this century.
Though the study’s forecasts are dire, Scholze said it is critical to examine the potential effects of dangerous’ global warming so steps can be taken to mitigate its occurrence.
Regional predictions from the PNAS study
“Most importantly we show the steeply increasing risks, and increasingly large areas affected, associated with higher warming levels. This analysis represents a considerable step forward for discussions about dangerous’ climate change and its avoidance.”
Deforestation, the growth of forests, and other changes in land cover could produce local temperature changes comparable to those caused by greenhouse gases according to new simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
Scientists today warned that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest could be lost by 2050 due to agricultural expansion unless strict measures are taken to protect the world’s largest tropical forest. Britaldo Soares-Filho, of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, and a team of scientists used computer simulations to model the future extent of Brazilian rainforests under different scenarios and found that “by 2050, current trends in agricultural expansion will eliminate a total of 40 percent of Amazon forests, including six major watersheds and ecoregions”. The research is published in the journal Nature.
Yesterday the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) offered to provide forestry data and technical assistance to countries looking to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through the reduction of forest loss.
At this week’s climate conference in Montreal there have been a number of proposals to plant trees for the purpose of absorbing carbon emissions and helping mitigate climate change. However, a new study from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory says that careful consideration should be given as to where these forests are planted. Planting trees in temperate regions could actually contribute to global warming.
This article used quotes and information from a University of Bristol news release.