Norwegian and UK scientists have used 14 years of satellite data to develop a map which identifies the ecosystems around the world that are at greatest risk from climate change, and eastern Australia is on the list.
The at-risk areas, which are the least likely to cope with changes in air temperature, water availability and cloud cover, are the Arctic tundra, parts of the boreal forest belt, the tropical rainforests, alpine regions worldwide, specific steppe and prairie regions, the Caatinga forest in eastern South America, and eastern areas of Australia.
Areas in the world that are most sensitive to climate variability are identified in a global map, providing a valuable tool for comparing different ecosystems’ sensitivity to climate variability.
Climate variability, as well as the related increase in extreme events in a warmer world, exerts a significant influence on the structure and function of ecosystems. However, identifying ecologically sensitive areas has been difficult up to now.
The results could provide a means of quantifying the relative response rate of ecosystems — either natural or caused by human intervention — to environmental variability, which has implications in ecosystem service provision and human well-being.