In less than 40 years, drinking wine could have a major toll on the environment and wildlife, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The study finds that climate change will likely force many vineyards to move either north or to higher altitudes, leading to habitat loss, biodiversity declines, and increased pressure for freshwater. Some famous wine-growing areas could be lost, including in the Mediterranean, while development of new wine areas—such as those in the Rocky Mountains and northern Europe—could lead to what the the scientists describe as “conservation conflicts.”
Many of the world’s current wine regions are already well-developed, but the lose of these regions, potentially replaced by new vineyards in some unexpected places (think Canada and Scandinavia) could lead to large-scale environmental impacts.
“Vineyard establishment involves removal of native vegetation, typically followed by deep plowing, fumigation with methyl bromide or other soilsterilizing chemicals, and the application of fertilizers and fungicides,” the researchers write. “Mature, producing vineyards have low habitat value for native vertebrates and invertebrates, and are visited more often by nonnative species.”
Under a lower emissions scenario (Representation Concentration Pathway 4.5), the researchers found that current wine-growing areas would be shrunk by 19 in Chile up to 62 percent in Australia by 2050. At a higher emissions scenario (RCP 8.5), wine-growing areas would be reduced by 25 percent in Chile to 73 percent in Australia during the same period. However, new wine-growing areas will spring up, especially in western North America, where suitable areas could expand by 231 percent under RCP 8.5. Northern Europe could see an expansion of 99 percent, while Mediterranean Europe will likely lose its wine crown.
Vineyard in Peru. Wine grapes are notoriously sensitive to climate. Photo by: Tiffany Roufs.
“Vineyards are already rapidly expanding in nearby areas of the Columbia River basin of eastern Washington, the Snake River valley of Idaho, and the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia,” the scientists write. New wine areas in North America are likely to come into conflict with conservation efforts in the Rocky Mountains, including the Y2Y Initiative which is seeking persevere wildlife corridors and habitat from Yellowstone to the Yukon.
Climate change impacts on wine growing will not only result in land issues, but could also contribute to regional freshwater scarcity.
“In a warming climate, water use may increase as vineyard managers attempt to cool grapes on the vine to reduce quality loss from heat stress and to reduce drought stress,” the researchers write. “Potential damage to freshwater environments is generally highest where water is already scarce.”
Given wine’s well-known sensitivity to climate, it may be that future generations will be forced to drink beer instead, assuming global warming doesn’t decimate the production of grain and hops.
CITATION: Lee Hannaha, Patrick R. Roehrdanz, Makihiko Ikegami, Anderson V. Shepard, M. Rebecca Shaw, Gary Tabor, Lu Zhi, Pablo A. Marquet, and Robert J. Hijmans. Climate change, wine, and conservation. PNAS. 2013.
(04/01/2013) Warming about twice as fast as the rest of the world, the Arctic is already undergoing massive upheavals from climate change: summer sea ice is thinning and vanishing, land based ice sheets are melting, and sea levels are rising. Now a new study in Nature Climate Change predicts that vegetation cover in the Arctic could expand by over 50 percent by 2050. Although increased vegetation would sequester additional carbon, this would be more-than-offset by the loss of the albedo effect, whereby sunlight bounces off white (snow and ice covered) parts of the Earth.
(03/13/2013) This week, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear II, the head of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, told The Boston Globe that climate change was the gravest threat in the region. While such an assessment may be surprising, given North Korea’s recent nuclear tests, the U.S. military has long viewed climate change as a massive destabilizing force on global security.
(03/05/2013) There’s little evidence that the Earth is nearing a global ecological tipping point, according to a new Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper that is bound to be controversial. The authors argue that despite numerous warnings that the Earth is headed toward an ecological tipping point due to environmental stressors, such as habitat loss or climate change, it’s unlikely this will occur anytime soon—at least not on land. The paper comes with a number of caveats, including that a global tipping point could occur in marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification from burning fossil fuels. In addition, regional tipping points, such as the Arctic ice melt or the Amazon rainforest drying out, are still of great concern.
(02/18/2013) Few places are changing as rapidly as the Arctic due to global warming. Last year, scientists were stunned when the Arctic’s seasonal ice extent fell to record low that was 18 percent below the previous one set in 2007. But new research in Geophysical Research Letters finds that the volume of ice is melting away just as quickly: satellite and ocean-based measurement have found that Arctic sea ice has fallen by 36 percent in Autumn since 2003. In winter, the ice volume has dropped 9 percent.
(01/22/2013) Glaciers are melting faster than ever in the tropical Andes, warns a new study published in The Cryosphere, which puts the blame for vanishing glaciers squarely on climate change. The study — the most comprehensive to date — found that since the 1970s glacier melt in the region has been speeding up, threatening freshwater supplies in Peru and Bolivia.
(01/14/2013) Climate change is on the march across the U.S. according to a new draft report written by U.S. government scientists with input from 240 experts. It documents increasing and worsening extreme weather, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification among other impacts. Released Friday for public review, the report will be officially launched later this year or early in 2014.
(01/10/2013) Global strategist, trained educator, and international lecturer Daniel Rirdan set out to create a plan addressing the future of our planet. His book The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse, published this year, does just that. “It has been a sixty hour a week routine,” Rirdan told mongabay.com in a recent interview. “Basically, I would wake up with the burden of the world on my shoulders and go to sleep with it. It went on like this for eighteen months.” It becomes apparent when reading The Blueprint that it was indeed a monumental undertaking.
(01/09/2013) Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
(01/08/2013) 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).