Global satellites have identified areas with vegetation most susceptible to fluctuations to climate.
A team of scientists have recognized some of the most sensitive land ecosystems on Earth. The areas are the most sensitive when it comes to climate change. A new research paper was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday identifying the areas.
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The research named the prairie regions of central Asia and North America as the most sensitive. Similarly the rain-forests in Central America and South America are also at risk from climate changes.
Lastly the area of eastern Australia was also found to be sensitive. The research was carried out at the Department of Biology at the University of Bergen (UiB).
The research claims the identified areas have vegetation that responded most to climate fluctuations. Dr. Kathy Willis is the director of science at the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
According to Willis the approach they have used to map the areas is relatively new. The new approach will enable them to identify the most vulnerable natural capital stocks provided by vegetation.
The approach is also an important first step to highlight regions of sensitivity, and conversely resilience. Since for global food security and other important resources are obtained from plants.
Dr. Alistair Seddon works in the dept. of biology at the University Of Bergen, Norway. Seddon is also the lead author of the new study. According to Seddon, their team also created a map of the vulnerable ecosystems.
The map is an effort to help scientists better visualizes how climate change may impact the future. Seddon also commented they have this global picture which can guide the next areas of research.
Ecosystems will likely face multiple dimensions of climate change in the future. The changes will be increases in average temperatures which is a known fact. But understanding the response to change is a key knowledge gap.
In the global map the red areas indicates higher ecosystem sensitivity. Similarly the green areas indicate lower ecosystem sensitivity. The grey areas are representatives of barren land or covered in ice. While the inland water bodies have been mapped with the color blue.
To come up with the map researchers used satellite data from 2000 to 2013. The map was developed using data from the past 14 years. They examined how various ecosystems responded to monthly changes in climate over time.
The data was then used to devise an index, called Vegetation Sensitivity Index. The Vegetation Sensitivity Index (VSI) will aid previous methods for monitoring and evaluating ecosystem conditions.
The metric allows a more quantifiable response to short-term climate anomalies. The Index compares fluctuations in temperature, water availability and cloudiness to the health of plants.
The comparisons are examined in certain ecosystems. In the current research the focus was mainly on how plants responded to changes in climate. The next step would be to explore how such sensitivity might impact human populations.
Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, an ecologist at George Mason University in Virginia. Lovejoy was not involved in the study but has hailed the study as ‘an important advance’.
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Lovejoy also stressed the research is also an underestimate of sensitivity. Since biological interactions show major ecosystem impacts can occur on top of and as part of vegetation or ecosystem impacts. So climate change should be limited to only 1.5 degrees.