Environment Magazine

Climate Alters Global Vegetation

Posted on the 19 April 2013 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal

Climate Alters Global VegetationCross Posted from Climate News Network.

By Alex Kirby, Climate News Network

LONDON—The amount of vegetation in the world, and the way it is spread across the planet, has changed significantly in the last three decades, researchers say.

They attribute more than half the changes they detected to the effects of the warming climate, with people responsible for only around a third. Surprisingly, perhaps, they are at a loss to attribute about 10% of the changes unequivocally to either the climate or us.

They say their work marks a scientific advance, because it has only recently become possible to quantify how far climate variability, human activity or a combination of the two are responsible for what is happening.

While the researchers, geographers from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues from the Netherlands, say the last 30 years have seen substantial changes, satellites have during that time been recording how vegetation has altered.

In a striking and perhaps unexpected development, the team found that while vegetation has declined south of the Equator, it has increased in the northern hemisphere.

The climate is what governs the seasonal activity of vegetation. In the humid mid-latitudes, temperature is the largest factor influencing plant growth.

In mainly dry areas, though, it is the availability of water and in high latitudes the amount of solar radiation that is key. And everywhere humans influence vegetation in myriad ways – and are influenced by it.

There is evidence that the arid expanses of the Sahara desert were once wet enough to support lush vegetation, so much so that the Sahara was known as the breadbasket of North Africa.

A reverse process is under way in Greenland, where the rapid warming of the Arctic means that in some southern parts of the formerly ice-bound island vegetables will now grow happily.

Vanishing forests

A pervasive human influence in many parts of the world is the pressure from growing human populations and their demand for wood for fuel and building and for plant matter for food and fodder.

The researchers have developed a model that can show the influences on vegetation of human activity and climate variability separately. Using satellite data on the increase or decline over the last thirty years, climate measurements and models, and data on the kind of land cover, they conclude that around 54% of the changes in global vegetation can be attributed to climate variability.

One of their reports, Spatial relationship between climatologies and changes in global vegetation activity, is published in the journal Global Change Biology. The other, Shifts in Global Vegetation Activity Trends, appears in Remote Sensing.

The main decline they detected has happened south of the Sahel, in countries such as Tanzania, Zimbabwe and other parts of central Africa.

“We assume that this was caused by clear cutting, the transformation of rain forest into plantations, or changes in agriculture in general”, said Rogier de Jong, a postdoctoral student at the University of Zurich’s Remote Sensing Laboratories (RSL).

But even after identifying the difference between the hemispheres and the probable reasons for it, that still leaves the tantalising 10% of change which the team cannot explain fully by either climatology or human activity.

“We suspect that this is due to unexplained effects of the interactions between humans and the climate”‘, says the head of the RSL, Michael Schaepman.

He and his team will continue to work on trying to find an explanation for what is happening under a newly created research priority programme, Global Change and Biodiversity, at Zurich.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Book Review The Almanac A Seasonal Guide to 2019

    Book Review Almanac Seasonal Guide 2019

    The Almanac - A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz, when I started to read this little book of loveliness I realised it was not a book you read and put dow... Read more

    The 09 December 2018 by   Angela
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Savory Vegan Succotash

    Savory Vegan Succotash

    Sufferin’ Vegan Succotash!  Look what we have here! That’s right! Succotash is a real THING and not just something a funny cartoon character says. Bonus points... Read more

    The 09 December 2018 by   Chuck Underwood
    FOOD & DRINK, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, LIFESTYLE, VEGETARIAN & VEGAN
  • Metabolic Health and Nutrition Conference – Part 3

    Metabolic Health Nutrition Conference Part

    I earlier this year attended a conference in Seattle, WA, (USA) titled " Metabolic Health and Nutrition Across the Life Span." The headlining presenters were Dr... Read more

    The 09 December 2018 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • "If" Then, and "If" Now

    "If" Then,

    By Elizabeth PrataAmy Carmichael was a missionary to India, arriving in 1895 to Dohnavur, just 30 miles from India's southern tip. Once in South India she... Read more

    The 09 December 2018 by   Elizabethprata
    SOCIETY, SPIRITUALITY
  • Airbus A330-200, Thomas Cook Airlines

    Airbus A330-200, Thomas Cook Airlines

    @ San Francisco International Airport, CA October 2018 Starting in May 2017, Thomas Cook began operating two flights per week between SFO and Manchester, UK... Read more

    The 09 December 2018 by   Htam
    PHOTOGRAPHY, SOCIETY
  • Caroling Party

    Caroling Party

    Last night we hosted our fourth annual caroling party. I'm not a big Christmas gift-giving person, so our gift to everyone is doughnuts, hot chocolate, hot... Read more

    The 09 December 2018 by   Sherwoods
    FAMILY, PARENTING
  • Struggling to Afford Insulin

    Struggling Afford Insulin

    People who need insulin for their type 1 or type 2 diabetes are skimping on the shots because the drug has become so expensive. A study this week in the... Read more

    The 09 December 2018 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE

Paperblog Hot Topics

Magazine