Global vegetation change predicted by the modified Budyko model

Abstract

A modified Budyko global vegetation model is used to predict changes in global vegetation patterns resulting from climate change (CO2 doubling). Vegetation patterns are predicted using a model based on a dryness index and potential evaporation determined by solving radiation balance equations. Climate change scenarios are derived from predictions from four General Circulation Models (GCM's) of the atmosphere (GFDL, GISS, OSU, and UKMO). Global vegetation maps after climate change are compared to the current climate vegetation map using the kappa statistic for judging agreement, as well as by calculating area statistics. All four GCM scenarios show similar trends in vegetation shifts and in areas that remain stable, although the UKMO scenario predicts greater warming than the others. Climate change maps produced by all four GCM scenarios show good agreement with the current climate vegetation map for the globe as a whole, although over half of the vegetation classes show only poor to fair agreement. The most stable areas are Desert and Ice/Polar Desert. Because most of the predicted warming is concentrated in the Boreal and Temperate zones, vegetation there is predicted to undergo the greatest change. Specifically, all Boreal vegetation classes are predicted to shrink. The interrelated classes of Tundra, Taiga, and Temperate Forest are predicted to replace much of their poleward (mostly northern) neighbors. Most vegetation classes in the Subtropics and Tropics are predicted to expand. Any shift in the Tropics favoring either Forest over Savanna, or vice versa, will be determined by the magnitude of the increased precipitation accompanying global warming. Although the model predicts equilibrium conditions to which many plant species cannot adjust (through migration or microevolution) in the 50–100 y needed for CO2 doubling, it is nevertheless not clear if projected global warming will result in drastic or benign vegetation change.

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Monserud, R.A., Tchebakova, N.M. & Leemans, R. Global vegetation change predicted by the modified Budyko model. Climatic Change 25, 59–83 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01094084

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Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Global Warming
  • General Circulation Model
  • Climate Change Scenario
  • Vegetation Change