, Volume 81, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 123-143

Uncertainties in projected impacts of climate change on European agriculture and terrestrial ecosystems based on scenarios from regional climate models

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Abstract

The uncertainties and sources of variation in projected impacts of climate change on agriculture and terrestrial ecosystems depend not only on the emission scenarios and climate models used for projecting future climates, but also on the impact models used, and the local soil and climatic conditions of the managed or unmanaged ecosystems under study. We addressed these uncertainties by applying different impact models at site, regional and continental scales, and by separating the variation in simulated relative changes in ecosystem performance into the different sources of uncertainty and variation using analyses of variance. The crop and ecosystem models used output from a range of global and regional climate models (GCMs and RCMs) projecting climate change over Europe between 1961–1990 and 2071–2100 under the IPCC SRES scenarios. The projected impacts on productivity of crops and ecosystems included the direct effects of increased CO2 concentration on photosynthesis. The variation in simulated results attributed to differences between the climate models were, in all cases, smaller than the variation attributed to either emission scenarios or local conditions. The methods used for applying the climate model outputs played a larger role than the choice of the GCM or RCM. The thermal suitability for grain maize cultivation in Europe was estimated to expand by 30–50% across all SRES emissions scenarios. Strong increases in net primary productivity (NPP) (35–54%) were projected in northern European ecosystems as a result of a longer growing season and higher CO2 concentrations. Changing water balance dominated the projected responses of southern European ecosystems, with NPP declining or increasing only slightly relative to present-day conditions. Both site and continental scale models showed large increases in yield of rain-fed winter wheat for northern Europe, with smaller increases or even decreases in southern Europe. Site-based, regional and continental scale models showed large spatial variations in the response of nitrate leaching from winter wheat cultivation to projected climate change due to strong interactions with soils and climate. The variation in simulated impacts was smaller between scenarios based on RCMs nested within the same GCM than between scenarios based on different GCMs or between emission scenarios.