A new scientific study warns that if the world continues on an "unchanged" trajectory on climate change, global ecosystems will undergo a "major transformation" over the next century.
Earth's forests, deserts, landscapes and vital ecosystems are at risk of "major transformation" in the next century due to climate change, international scientists warned in the study.
French news service AFP reports that some of these changes are already underway in the southwestern United States, where massive wildfires are destroying pine forests and transforming swaths of territory into bushland.
In the next 100-150 years, these changes will likely spread to savannas, deserts and forests, altering ecosystems and endangering plant and animal life, particularly in areas such as Europe and the United States, the researchers warned in the journal Science. .
"If we allow climate change to go unchecked, the vegetation on this planet will look completely different than it does today, and that poses a great risk to the diversity of the planet," said co-author Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan.
The report is based on fossil and temperature records from a period that began 21,000 years ago, when the last Ice Age ended and the planet warmed from four to seven degrees Celsius.
AFP reports that experts say their predictions are conservative, as this historic warming, caused by natural variability, took place over a much longer period, from the Maximum Glacial Maximum 21,000 years ago to the early Holocene, about 10,000 years ago. .
However, human-caused climate change is different.
Burning fossil fuels like oil and coal emits heat-trapping gases all over the planet.
The Earth is warming at a much faster rate.
"We're talking about the same amount of change in 10 to 20 thousand years that will accumulate in a century or two," said Dr. Stephen Jackson, director of the Southwest Climate Adaptation Center at the US Geological Survey.
"Ecosystems are going to be struggling to catch up."
The researchers described their work as the most comprehensive study to date, based on pollen and plant fossil records from 594 sites around the world, dating between 21,000 and 14,000 years ago.
All continents except Antarctica were included
The most significant changes were seen in the mid to high latitudes of North America, Europe, and southern South America.
These were the regions that became the most covered in glaciers, and which got hotter as the climate changed.
The researchers calculated that if too little is done to contain current emissions, "the probability of a large-scale vegetation change is greater than 60 percent."
However, if greenhouse gases are limited to the levels envisaged in the 2015 United Nations-sponsored Paris Agreement, "the probability of large-scale vegetation change is less than 45 percent."
Changing landscapes would affect not only forests, but also drinking water, river flow, and aquatic recreation.
And the loss of forests could trigger global warming even faster, because important carbon sinks would disappear.
"Much of the carbon now locked up by vegetation around the planet could be released into the atmosphere, further amplifying the magnitude of climate change," said Dr. Overpeck.
Original article (in English)