May 28, 2023

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Mediterranean forests are at risk of desertification due to climate change Science

Climate scenarios predict a 2°C increase in temperature due to carbon dioxide emissions in the coming decades, and a 30% decrease in annual rainfall in the Mediterranean region.

A recent study revealed that forests in the Mediterranean region are at risk of desertification in the future due to human-induced climate change. Just study Recently published in the journal Nature Communications, decreasing rainfall and prolonged drought conditions predict the inevitable desertification of Mediterranean forests.

A research team from the Institute of Geosciences of the University of Heidelberg, Germany, led by Prof. Jörg Bras, revealed. Press release The agency published on May 2 that Mediterranean forests have turned into grasslands in just a few decades due to rainfall and exceeding certain thresholds.

After analyzing data related to climate fluctuations and vegetation cover developments known to the region over 500,000 years, the researchers added that the lack of rain could desertify the region’s forests.

The team reached these conclusions by tracing the history of interactions of Mediterranean forests with climate change in the past and their vulnerability and resilience. The sediments of the “Tenagio-Philippo” area (Tenagio-Philippo) in northeastern Greece are preserved in the geochemical record in collaboration with researchers from France, Greece and Britain.

The researchers analyzed 2,347 samples of fossil pollen from the sediments of the “Tinagio-Philippo” area in northern Greece (University of Heidelberg).

Low rainfall threatens forests

The study’s results show that the level of humidity and rainfall in the Mediterranean region is affected by the concentration of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere, raising concerns about the survival of Mediterranean forests in light of long-term drought. In the foreseeable future, and with continued carbon dioxide emissions, vegetation will disappear.

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“A 40-45% reduction in rainfall in the past would have been enough to affect forest species under natural conditions. But if nothing is done to protect the forests of the Mediterranean region with such a change, they will become deserts in the future.”

Biomes refer to very large areas of vegetation that include many species and thus form different ecosystems. A biome is the largest biome on Earth.

“As Mediterranean forests are exceptionally sensitive to climate change, there is increasing concern for their survival in light of carbon dioxide emissions and associated global warming,” the Greek researcher adds in the same report.

The researchers predict that these organisms will go through a critical period in the face of continued drought expected to occur in the Mediterranean over the next 70 years, resulting in disruption of ecosystem services and loss of biodiversity.

The study indicates that forests in the Mediterranean are characterized by a mosaic of temperate and subtropical forests. They are important sites of biodiversity and provide important ecosystem services, protecting against soil erosion, regulating regional climate and hydrological conditions, and providing food and timber.

A 40-45% decrease in annual rainfall could lead to forest desertification (Shutterstock)

Desertification in the future

Anthropogenic carbon dioxide has increased to certain levels in the atmosphere over the past 500,000 years, and its relationship with precipitation and vegetation cover dynamics achieved through fossil pollen data in Greece can be used to predict changes, the study said. Vegetation system in the future, Mediterranean region.

But plants can quickly adapt to increased CO2 by reducing the concentration of CO2 reaching their leaf pores and maintaining the limits of their phenotype, which is twice the predicted CO2 concentration over the next century.

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Furthermore, high CO2 concentrations may allow plants to maintain carbon uptake with low pore conductance, helping to mitigate the effects of drought, to some extent.

As plant physiology can partially compensate for low humidity under increased CO2, determining the minimum humidity sufficient to maintain forest resilience is a very important factor for assessing future environmental stress in the Mediterranean region, as it provides a geochemical record associated with cereal grains. Fossil pollen is an indicator of the minimum rainfall required to maintain subtropical dry forest biomes in the Mediterranean region.

In conclusion, a 40% to 45% decrease in annual rainfall will lead to desertification of forests, as climate scenarios predict a two-degree temperature rise in carbon dioxide emissions in the coming decades, and then taper off. 30% of the annual rainfall in the Mediterranean region.

In addition, the water level in the Mediterranean region has naturally decreased compared to wet periods. All these factors inevitably lead to the desertification of the forests of the region, despite the ability of vegetation to partially compensate for the lack of moisture.