Journal: Nature Communications
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Forests retreat as drylands expand
© Nick Brundle Photography/Getty
Climate change could turn forest into grassland and grassland into desert, reducing global plant productivity as lush landscapes dry out.
Drylands, such as grasslands and savanna, support nearly two fifths of the world’s population and are a major carbon sink. But drylands are expected to expand as a result of climate warming and it is unclear how this expansion will affect plant productivity.
A team that included researchers from Lanzhou University gathered satellite data on vegetation productivity and measured carbon cycling across a range of ecosystems worldwide.
By combining this data with models of future climate change, they predict that global dryland productivity will increase by around 12% by 2100 compared to a decade ago. However, overall vegetation productivity may decline as drylands either transform formerly productive ecosystems or degrade.
Understanding how climate change affects drylands’ ability to absorb carbon and support biodiversity will help guide the conservation of the most productive areas.
- Nature Communications 11, 1665 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15515-