New maps show how climate change might reshape our planet's biomes

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A new study sheds light on how climate change might redraw Earth's biological landscape.

Human-caused climate change will set the stage for a vast redistribution of the world’s plant and animal life, according to a new study mapping how the planet’s biomes will shift by the end of the century.

By mapping how the natural world might change under different climate scenarios, Berg said he and his colleagues hope to make the localized effects of a changing climate more vivid and more meaningful to people.Big shifts in temperature and precipitation Berg and his colleagues produced a first version of the climate projections in a 2018 landmark study, one that offered a worst-case scenario for climate-driven warming.

Seasonal temperature and precipitation patterns divide the world up further, adding designations like rainforest, monsoon and savanna in the tropics, desert and steppe in the driest regions. Berg said Canada’s northern tundra would see vast changes alongside the coldest mountain environments as a climate zone associated with southern Ontario and Quebec expands across Western Canada and the northern territories.

“Recent events have to give you a hint of how that might happen,” Berg said, pointing to Canada’s historic 2023 wildfire season. “Changes are not going to be peaceful.” “If a climate zone shifts overnight… that doesn't mean that the landscape is going to transform overnight,” said Berg. The researchers’ models show hot desert climates expanding along South America’s west coast, in Peru and Chile, as well as in the U.S. southwest and northern states of Mexico. Much of Morocco, Algeria and a growing slice of Spain’s southeast coast will see similar hot, dry conditions, while desert conditions are also expected to expand across Iran and parts of Central and South Asia.

“When you zoom in on B.C., you see things moving up hill. You also run out of mountain when you run out of things to stand on,” Harley said. “That’s going to affect our water supply. That's going to affect our salmon. The list goes on.”


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