WCS and other partners have released a new study that models climate changes in 45 life zones around the globe. This shows that the impacts of climate change could soon triple if we continue to emit as much as usual.
Life zones are biogeographic areas that have distinct characteristics such as biotemperature, precipitation and aridity. They can be used to describe broad-scale ecosystem types.
The study showed that the world's life zones had changed significantly from the early 1900s to the present across all biomes. This was most evident in Boreal Forests and Temperate Coniferous Forests. These impacts have affected 27 million square kilometers (or 18.3 percent) of the earth's land. Boundaries between life zones have moved poleward and to higher elevations, leading both to an expansion of zones that are associated with equatorial climates as well as contractions of those associated with temperate climates.
Future changes will accelerate quickly if the world doesn't act to reduce emissions. These potential impacts include an additional potential potential of 62,000,000 square kilometers (24,000,000 square miles), or 42.6 percent earth's land under business as usual.
Subpolar rain tundra and wet tundra will experience the greatest decreases, while subpolar rain tundra and wet tundra will experience the largest declines. Tropical wet forest and tropical rain forest are expected to see the most significant increases. Although expected losses will be substantial, polar and boreal latitudes will see significant area reductions. However, their large extent will compensate some of the losses.
Dr. Paul Elsen (WCS Climate Adaptation Scientist, and the lead author of this study) stated that the likely future changes to the world's life zones will have a significant impact on the lives and biodiversity of people. The earth's life zones are already being affected by the increasing heat and drought in large areas.
Dr. Hedley grantham, Director of Conservation Planning at WCS, and coauthor of this study, stated that COP26 represents our best chance for countries to commit to reducing their emissions and setting us up for a better future path for climate change.
Global Change Biology published the study.