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Vulnerability of the global terrestrial ecosystems to climate change

Li, Delong, Wu, Shuyao, Liu, Laibao, Zhang, Yatong, Li, Shuangcheng
Global change biology 2018 v.24 no.9 pp. 4095-4106
boreal forests, climate, climate change, deserts, environmental impact, latitude, shrublands, terrestrial ecosystems, tropical rain forests, Polar Regions
Climate change has far‐reaching impacts on ecosystems. Recent attempts to quantify such impacts focus on measuring exposure to climate change but largely ignore ecosystem resistance and resilience, which may also affect the vulnerability outcomes. In this study, the relative vulnerability of global terrestrial ecosystems to short‐term climate variability was assessed by simultaneously integrating exposure, sensitivity, and resilience at a high spatial resolution (0.05°). The results show that vulnerable areas are currently distributed primarily in plains. Responses to climate change vary among ecosystems and deserts and xeric shrublands are the most vulnerable biomes. Global vulnerability patterns are determined largely by exposure, while ecosystem sensitivity and resilience may exacerbate or alleviate external climate pressures at local scales; there is a highly significant negative correlation between exposure and sensitivity. Globally, 61.31% of the terrestrial vegetated area is capable of mitigating climate change impacts and those areas are concentrated in polar regions, boreal forests, tropical rainforests, and intact forests. Under current sensitivity and resilience conditions, vulnerable areas are projected to develop in high Northern Hemisphere latitudes in the future. The results suggest that integrating all three aspects of vulnerability (exposure, sensitivity, and resilience) may offer more comprehensive and spatially explicit adaptation strategies to reduce the impacts of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems.