Climate change will create ‘thirsty’ ecosystems: study

A new study by climatologists suggests that some ‘hotspot regions’ around the world contain ecosystems that are at risk due to water availability.

A group of researchers from Germany, the Netherlands and Australia have studied how changes in the availability of water and energy – both crucial for the process of photosynthesis – are expected to change around the world in the near future. using a simulator, looking from 1980 to 2100.

Their findings, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggest that ecosystems in central Europe, the Amazon and western Russia will be affected as climate change limits water availability.

There is no shortage of energy, including sunlight and heat, as climate change increases the availability of energy for plants and ecosystems. But Jasper Denissen, a former doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany and lead author of the study, says water availability is another story.

“We have found that globally, ecosystems are becoming more thirsty as they become more water constrained,” Denissen said in a press release.

The simulator suggests that an additional six million square kilometers of Earth’s land surface could become water-limited by 2100, compared to 1980.

According to the study, periods of water limitation are also expected to increase in duration, with nearly half of the study area experiencing water shortages for two more months per year by 2100.

“These changes in the water limitation of vegetation in space and time leave vegetation starved of water in larger regions and for longer consecutive periods,” said Rene Orth, another lead author of the study, in the press release.

Researchers say the information is crucial because well-functioning ecosystems and the process of photosynthesis play a key role on our planet, including ensuring food and water security, absorbing carbon dioxide created by human activity and by providing evaporative cooling to lower temperatures.

According to the study, evaporative cooling occurs during photosynthesis when small openings on a plant’s leaf, called stomata, open to absorb carbon dioxide. Through the open stomata, water from the plant evaporates into the atmosphere. This process creates a cooling effect, which the researchers say is crucial for coping with rising temperatures and extreme heat waves due to climate change, possibly preventing heat stress and heat-related deaths.

The study authors say more research is needed to understand how ecosystems are affected by climate change in order to make changes to human activity, including agriculture and forest management, to mitigate. the impact on ecosystems.