New research looks as the relationship between vegetation productivity and short-term climate variability.
An international team says it has developed an new measurement that can quantify the affect of short-term climate change on vegetation productivity and map areas that are the most sensitive to the changes.
An article on eurekalert.org reports on a new paper published in the journal Nature, that reveals climate-sensitive ecosystems across the world. Study researcher Alistair Seddon at the Department of Biology at the University of Bergen (UiB), said the team based their analysis on data collected over the last 14 years and they have found several regions with high sensitivity to climate variability.
Seddon, adds, “We have found ecologically sensitive regions with amplified responses to climate variability in the Arctic tundra, parts of the boreal forest belt, the tropical rainforest, alpine regions worldwide, steppe and prairie regions of central Asia and North and South America, forests in South America, and eastern areas of Australia.”
The researchers say they have developed a quantifiable response measurement, called the Vegetation Sensitivity Index (VSI), that can show how ecosystems are challenged by short-term climate anomalies, such as a warmer June than the average, a colder December, or even a cloudy September. The team says the index can supplement other methods of monitoring and evaluating the health of ecosystems across the globe.
Using satellite data collected from 2000 through 2013, the team first identified the climate variability factors that were important to the ecosystem in a given location. Then they compared the variability in productivity, also obtained through satellite technology, against the importance of the variables.
Seddon said, “This kind of information can be really useful for national-scale ecosystem assessments, like Nordic Nature. Even more interesting is that as satellite measurements continue and so as the datasets get longer, we will be able to recalculate our metric over longer time periods to investigate how and if ecosystem sensitivity to climate variability is changing over time.”
Many of the locations were already of high concern to scientists, but the new index pointed out some areas that have not been high on the radar, such as Caatinga, a highly threatened shrub forest in northeastern Brazil. The researchers hope the new index can be used a tool for predicting the effects of short-term climate change and aid in monitoring endangered ecosystems around the world.