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.
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