Food, forestry and ecosystem services

Understanding climate impacts on food, forestry and ecosystem services in an integrated way.

We develop current climate models to represent key aspects of the land surface including crops, irrigation and forests. In this way we aim to make impacts assessments more consistent with the associated regional and global projections of climate change. Our work has strong links to other sectors in Climate Impacts, such as water resources, so that indirect impacts of climate change can be included in our assessments. We work at both regional and global scales looking at long-term climate mitigation questions as well as short-term adaptation options.

Key aims

  • To carry out integrated assessments of how climate change could impact on food, forestry and ecosystem services.
  • To improve climate model projections by representing important processes that influence the climate, e.g. agriculture, deforestation and permafrost.

Current projects

Impacts of climate change and deforestation in Brazil

This project has involved close collaboration with the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research to produce regional model projections of climate change for Brazil. In addition, the regional model has been developed to include dynamic vegetation. This enables an assessment of how climate change may affect the vegetation - including the Amazon rainforest -and how direct deforestation of the Amazon could interact with the climate and vegetation across Brazil.

Global food and farming

An assessment of the potential impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity for the Foresight Global Food and Farming Futures project, which highlighted food security and its relationship with climate in the short and the long-term as a critical area for research.

Development of a crop model

The development of a crop model within the Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES), is in collaboration with the Walker Institute at the University of Reading. This is being developed to address questions relating to long-term projections of global food production, capacity for agricultural adaptation options, and short-term projections of crop productivity.

Crop irrigation

Crop irrigation is often viewed as a viable adaptation to climate change to ensure food security. However, irrigation can also be a large consumer of available water resources. By introducing an irrigation scheme into the regional model, the possible feedback of irrigation upon the regional climate can be explored, but also the impacts on crop productivity, water availability and river discharge.

Permafrost regions

Together with scientists from the Hydrological Institute in St. Petersburg (Russia) we are working on an assessment of climate change impacts on permafrost regions, looking at the potential of permafrost degradation under global warming. Thawing permafrost has the potential to further enhance climate change because of the large amounts of carbon stored in frozen soils, but it also affects the local hydrology and ground stability. By using an improved description of frozen soil processes in the JULES land surface model, we are trying to address some of the uncertainties related to modelling the response of the permafrost to climate change.

Impact of vegetation changes in northern Eurasia on future climate

As part of the European research project Carbo-North we are using the coupled climate-carbon cycle version of HadCM3 to examine ecosystem feedbacks on the climate in northern Eurasia.  This includes investigating the possibility of ongoing local change under a scenario of stabilised greenhouse gas concentrations.

Soil processes

Development of JULES to represent soil processes (carbon and nitrogen) in organic soils in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen and Rothamsted Research (the ECOSSE model)

Fire modelling

Combining fire risk indices with projections of climate change improves understanding of how fire risk may change in the future. An integrated fire risk model has been developed for HadCM3 and work has also begun to consider how we could integrate the fire model into our new Earth System Model HadGEM2.

Last updated: 11 November 2011