Study maps climate change sensitivity around the globe

Researchers have developed a new method for determining how sensitive a particular ecosystem is to climate change, finding that places like eastern parts of Australian, tropical rainforests, regions in central Asia and South America, and more are all particularly sensitive to such variations. Such data can be used in assessing ecosystems and anticipating how particular parts of the world will be affected by short and long term climate changes.

The work was done by University of Bergen researcher Alistair Seddon and a team of biologists using satellites, which gathered data from around the globe. Using that data, the researchers were able to pinpoint specific climate elements that drive the vegetation productivity in any given ecosystem during a specific month.

This is all based on the Vegetation Sensitivity Index (VSI), an index the researchers created as part of their study. With it, researchers could see how a particular ecosystem responds to climate in any given month, and thusly how it might respond to an anomalous month, such as one too cold or too dry.

The climate specifics that affected a particular ecosystem may be variable, and are determined for each region — they include things like water levels and temperature. Using the satellite data, the ecosystems' productivity was compared to the climate to determine how variable conditions change things.

Said Seddon:

We have found ecologically sensitive regions with amplified responses to climate variability in the Arctic tundra, parts of the boreal forest belt, the tropical rainforest, alpine regions worldwide, steppe and prairie regions of central Asia and North and South America, forests in South America, and eastern areas of Australia.

As time passes, additional data will be available that can be added and contrasted with existing assessments, lending new insights into regions and how climate affects them.

SOURCE: EurekAlert