Washington: Over 80 percent of the world`s ice-free land could undergo profound ecosystem transformation by 2100, a new study has revealed.
Sebastian Ostberg of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany and collaborators studied over 150 climate scenarios, looking at ecosystem changes in nearly 20 different climate models for various degrees of global warming, and found that 86 percent of the remaining natural land ecosystems worldwide could be at risk of major change in a business-as-usual scenario.
The researchers state in the article that "nearly no area of the world is free" from the risk of climate change transforming landscapes substantially, unless mitigation limits warming to around 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
Ecosystem changes could include boreal forests being transformed into temperate savannas, trees growing in the freezing Arctic tundra or even a dieback of some of the world`s rainforests.
Such profound transformations of land ecosystems have the potential to affect food and water security, and hence impact human well-being just like sea level rise and direct damage from extreme weather events.
This assumes that the global mean temperature will be 4 to 5 degrees warmer at the end of this century than in pre-industrial times - given many countries` reluctance to commit to binding emissions cuts, such warming is not out of the question by 2100.
The study has been published in Earth System Dynamics, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).