Large changes in Great Britain’s vegetation and agricultural land-use predicted under unmitigated climate change
Ritchie, P; Harper, A; Smith, G; et al.Kahana, R; Kendon, EJ; Lewis, H; Fezzi, C; Halleck Vega, S; Boulton, C; Bateman, IJ; Lenton, T
Date: 30 September 2019
Environmental Research Letters
The impact of climate change on vegetation including agricultural production has been the focus of many studies. Climate change is expected to have heterogeneous effects across locations globally, and the diversity of land uses characterising Great Britain (GB) presents a unique opportunity to test methods for assessing climate change ...
The impact of climate change on vegetation including agricultural production has been the focus of many studies. Climate change is expected to have heterogeneous effects across locations globally, and the diversity of land uses characterising Great Britain (GB) presents a unique opportunity to test methods for assessing climate change effects and impacts. GB is a relatively cool and damp country, hence, the warmer and generally drier growing season conditions projected for the future are expected to increase arable production. Here we use state-of-the-art, kilometre-scale climate change scenarios to drive a land surface model (JULES; Joint UK Land Environment Simulator) and an ECOnometric AGricultural land use model (ECO-AG). Under unmitigated climate change, by the end of the century, the growing season in GB is projected to get >5°C warmer and 140 mm drier on average. Rising levels of atmospheric CO2 are predicted to counteract the generally negative impacts of climate change on vegetation productivity in JULES. Given sufficient precipitation, warming favours higher value arable production over grassland agriculture, causing a predicted westward expansion of arable farming in ECO-AG. However, drying in the East and Southeast, without any CO2 fertilisation effect, is severe enough to cause a predicted reversion from arable to grassland farming. Irrigation, if implemented, could maintain this land in arable production. However, the predicted irrigation demand of ~200 mm (per growing season) in many locations is comparable to annual predicted runoff, potentially demanding large-scale redistribution of water between seasons and/or across the country. The strength of the CO2 fertilisation effect emerges as a crucial uncertainty in projecting the impact of climate change on GB vegetation, especially farming land-use decisions.
College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
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