Report: Climate change will put the squeeze on wineries

ARLINGTON, VA.
April 8, 2013 1:05pm
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•  May mean loss of majority of current area suitable for grape growing by 2050

•  “This is just the tip of the iceberg – the same will be true for many other crops”


Climate change will dramatically impact many of today’s most famous wine-producing regions and prompt the opening of new areas to wine production in unusual places, predicts a new study by a team of researchers led by Conservation International.

This would likely degrade or put pressure on critical ecosystems that support species and human well-being, says the study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It claims to be the first ever worldwide analysis of the impacts of climate change on wine production and conservation.

It finds that the area suitable for wine production will shrink by as much as 73 percent by 2050 in certain parts of the globe, with high potential for stress on rivers and other freshwater ecosystems as vineyards use water to cool grapes or irrigate to compensate for rising temperatures and declining rainfall.

“Climate change is going to move potential wine-producing regions all over the map. These global changes put the squeeze on wildlife and nature’s capacity to sustain human life in some surprising places,” says Lee Hannah, lead author and senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International’s Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics.

“Consumer awareness, industry and conservation actions are all needed to help keep high quality wine flowing without unintended consequences for nature and the flows of goods and services it provides people,” he says. “This is just the tip of the iceberg – the same will be true for many other crops.”

The researchers looked at nine major wine producing areas within the first global map of future winemaking using multiple models of wine suitability. The areas analyzed in more details are: California, Western North America, Chile, Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe, Cape Floristic region of South Africa, parts of Australia with Mediterranean climate, parts of Australia with non-Mediterranean climate and New Zealand.

Another key finding from the study is that new areas will become more productive, including parts of Western North America and Northern Europe. These places at higher latitudes and higher elevations will become increasingly suitable for wine making and sought after by vineyards as they search for the climatic conditions that are ideal for wine grape growing, the study says.

This will have implications for conservation of wildlife and ecosystems in regions as diverse as the Rocky Mountains around Yellowstone National Park and in Central China, where new vineyard suitability will open in the habitat of the endangered giant panda.

According to the study, the greatest area of increasing wine production suitability is in the Rocky Mountains near the Canadian-U.S. border, putting at risk species such as the grizzly bear, gray wolf and pronghorn.

“Climate change will set up competition for land between agricultural and wildlife – wine grapes are but one example. This could have disastrous results for wildlife,” says co-author Rebecca Shaw, a climate scientist and associate vice president for Environmental Defense Fund’s Land, Water and Wildlife program.

The authors say that wine grapes are symbolic of a wide variety of crops whose geographic shifts in response to climate change will have substantial implications for conservation, and that adaptation strategies are urgently needed to maintain productivity and to minimize impacts on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.

Among their key recommendations are:

• Joint planning of vineyard expansion between business managers and conservationists to avoid areas of high environmental importance;

• Investment in new varieties of grapes that offer similar flavors but with altered climate tolerances;

• Consumer awareness (by purchasing bottles with natural cork, and from vineyards that adopt sustainable practices).


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