Earth’s wetlands could shrink by 74% by the end of the century

An international team in which the researcher from the National Museum of Natural Sciences of Madrid (MNCN-CSIC) participates, Ana Reisuggests that climate change is causing mechanisms hitherto considered exclusive to arid zones to become more frequent in wetter and temperate zones of the planet.

The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolutioncompiled a list of mechanisms currently operating in arid ecosystems and modeled their global scale dynamics.

The results indicate that arid zones will increase by about 17 million kmtwoapproximately the area of ​​the USA and Brazil together, by the end of this century and that soil moisture will decrease by 74% in areas classified as non-arid today.

The results indicate that arid zones will increase by about 17 million km2, approximately the area of ​​the United States and Brazil combined.

“O extreme weather events are more and more frequent: The melting of ice in high mountain areas is more and more precocious and severe fires, torrential rains or periods of drought are becoming more recurrent and intense. We wonder what the future of temperate forests and crop regions on the planet would be if these trends continue,” says Ana Rey.

The team, led by the researcher at the University of Jerusalem Joseph Grunzweiganalyzed how species and ecosystems adapt to life in arid areas and deserts.

“We have compiled a list of processes currently in operation in the arid ecosystems. Mechanisms that affect the distribution of vegetation, plant growth, water flow, energy balance, the carbon and nutrient cycle or the decomposition of plant material are considered unique and relevant to the functioning of these areas”, explains Grunzweig.

These arid mechanisms are controlled by environmental factors such as solar radiation, high temperatures or intermittent availability of water. Factors that global warming is changing over large areas of the planet.

“To understand how these processes affect the distribution or decomposition of plant material, we modeled their dynamics on a global scale, including temperate zones, to show that in the future they will also act in wettest areas on the planet”, explains Rei.

“The results show a large increase in arid areas and a 74% decrease in soil moisture in temperate and humid areas that are currently densely populated and engaged in agriculture. growing food“, continues.

Find out how they work to adapt

Historically, arid and desert ecosystems have been less studied because countries with these climatic conditions tend to have a minor scientific infrastructure. This study shows that climate change is causing processes considered unique to arid and dry ecosystems to start operating in temperate and humid zones.

Historically, arid and desert ecosystems have been less studied because countries with these climatic conditions tend to have less scientific infrastructure.

“This analysis of the evolution of temperate areas, which has on the functioning of the mechanisms that operate in arid zones, can contribute to advance in the knowledge about the adaptive capacity from ecosystems to extreme weather events and mitigate their impact on nature and its inhabitants. In short, it can help us to improve the adaptation processes that we must undertake in the face of climate crisisKing concludes.

Reference:

Grünzweig JM et al. “Dry land mechanisms can largely control ecosystem functioning in a drier, warmer world,” Nature Ecology and Evolution

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