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A multi-model analysis of risk of ecosystem shifts under climate change

Warszawski, Lila; Friend, Andrew; Ostberg, Sebastian; Frieler, Katja; Lucht, Wolfgang; Schaphoff, Sibyll; Beerling, David; Cadule, Patricia; Ciais, Philippe; Clark, Douglas B.; Kahana, Ron; Ito, Akihiko; Keribin, Rozenn; Kleidon, Axel; Lomas, Mark; Nishina, Kazuya; Pavlick, Ryan; Rademacher, Tim Tito; Buechner, Matthias; Piontek, Franziska; Schewe, Jacob; Serdeczny, Olivia; Schellnhuber, Hans Joachim. 2013 A multi-model analysis of risk of ecosystem shifts under climate change. Environmental Research Letters, 8 (4), 044018. 10, pp. 10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044018

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Abstract/Summary

Climate change may pose a high risk of change to Earth's ecosystems: shifting climatic boundaries may induce changes in the biogeochemical functioning and structures of ecosystems that render it difficult for endemic plant and animal species to survive in their current habitats. Here we aggregate changes in the biogeochemical ecosystem state as a proxy for the risk of these shifts at different levels of global warming. Estimates are based on simulations from seven global vegetation models (GVMs) driven by future climate scenarios, allowing for a quantification of the related uncertainties. 5–19% of the naturally vegetated land surface is projected to be at risk of severe ecosystem change at 2 ° C of global warming (ΔGMT) above 1980–2010 levels. However, there is limited agreement across the models about which geographical regions face the highest risk of change. The extent of regions at risk of severe ecosystem change is projected to rise with ΔGMT, approximately doubling between ΔGMT = 2 and 3 ° C, and reaching a median value of 35% of the naturally vegetated land surface for ΔGMT = 4 °C. The regions projected to face the highest risk of severe ecosystem changes above ΔGMT = 4 °C or earlier include the tundra and shrublands of the Tibetan Plateau, grasslands of eastern India, the boreal forests of northern Canada and Russia, the savanna region in the Horn of Africa, and the Amazon rainforest.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1088/1748-9326/8/4/044018
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 3 - Science for Water Management > WA - 3.3 - Better represent hydrological and biogeochemical processes in Earth System Models
CEH Sections: Reynard
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - Official URL link provides full text
Additional Keywords: climate change, ecosystem change, global vegetation
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Date made live: 01 Nov 2013 14:12 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/503655

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