40% of Earth's Land To Undergo Major Ecosystem Change Due To Global Warming

© NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released a stark, equal parts intriguing, exciting and terrifying, image of the predicted percentage of ecosystems throughout the world that will experience major changes due to global warming.

That is, 40% of existing landscapes will experience a shift from one major ecosystem type to another—from forest to grassland or grassland to desert for example.

Science Daily sums up:


The model projections paint a portrait of increasing ecological change and stress in Earth's biosphere, with many plant and animal species facing increasing competition for survival, as well as significant species turnover, as some species invade areas occupied by other species. Most of Earth's land that is not covered by ice of desert is projected to undergo at least a 30% change in plant cover—changes that will require humans and animals to adapt and often relocate.

Which is the terrifying part. The exciting part for me in looking at that map is that it's like we're looking at, particularly in northern latitudes (look at the red sections), we're talking about 100% change in ecosystem type. Equally interesting is that a large swath of the Middle East, Central Asia, southern India, Indonesia, interior China, the Great Plains, are likely to see not much ecosystem shift. All told, this map describes a hugely different world than what we've been used to. It's a new planet, for better and, in many places in a period of transition and transformation, worse.

Tags: Ecology | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects

Best of TreeHugger