Prehistoric changes in vegetation help predict future of Earth's ecosystems | 8/30/2018 | Staff
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As the last ice age came to an end and the planet warmed, the Earth's vegetation changed dramatically, reports a University of Arizona-led international research team.

The current warming from climate change may drive an equally dramatic change in vegetation within the next 100 to 150 years unless greenhouse-gas emissions are reduced, the team wrote.

Globe - Changes - Connor - Nolan - Candidate

"We found that ecosystems all over the globe experienced big changes," said Connor Nolan, a doctoral candidate in the UA Department of Geosciences. "About 70 percent of those sites experienced large changes in the species that were there and what the vegetation looked like."

The researchers used their analysis of how vegetation changed after the last ice age to project how much current ecosystems could change in the 21st century and beyond as global warming progresses.

Analysis - Information - Reports - Sites - Continent

The analysis required synthesizing information from published reports for 594 sites covering every continent except Antarctica. Nolan said the study is the most comprehensive compilation of vegetation and other ecological data covering the period from the height of the last ice age 21,000 years ago to the pre-industrial era.

The regions of the world that had the biggest temperature increases since the ice age also had the greatest changes in vegetation, the team found.

Relationship - Temperature - Change - Degree - Vegetation

Knowing the relationship between temperature change and the degree of vegetation change allowed the researchers to determine how ecosystems might change under various greenhouse-gas emissions models.

"We used the results from the past to look at the risk of future ecosystem change," Nolan said. "We find that as temperatures rise there are bigger and bigger risks for more ecosystem change."

Earth - Degrees - F - Degrees - C

The Earth warmed 7-13 degrees F (4-7 degrees C) since the last ice age. Climate change projections indicate the world will warm about that much "in the next 100-150 years if greenhouse-gas emissions are not reduced substantially," the authors write.

Corresponding author Stephen Jackson,...
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