2011-09-26Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/6/3/034036
Risk of severe climate change impact on the terrestrial biosphere
The functioning of many ecosystems and their associated resilience could become severely compromised by climate change over the 21st century. We present a global risk analysis of terrestrial ecosystem changes based on an aggregate metric of joint changes in macroscopic ecosystem features including vegetation structure as well as carbon and water fluxes and stores. We apply this metric to global ecosystem simulations with a dynamic global vegetation model (LPJmL) under 58 WCRP CMIP3 climate change projections. Given the current knowledge of ecosystem processes and projected climate change patterns, we find that severe ecosystem changes cannot be excluded on any continent. They are likely to occur (in > 90% of the climate projections) in the boreal–temperate ecotone where heat and drought stress might lead to large-scale forest die-back, along boreal and mountainous tree lines where the temperature limitation will be alleviated, and in water-limited ecosystems where elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration will lead to increased water use efficiency of photosynthesis. Considerable ecosystem changes can be expected above 3 K local temperature change in cold and tropical climates and above 4 K in the temperate zone. Sensitivity to temperature change increases with decreasing precipitation in tropical and temperate ecosystems. In summary, there is a risk of substantial restructuring of the global land biosphere on current trajectories of climate change.