A study by researchers at the Joint Global Change Research Institute at Maryland determined that successful climate mitigation strategies in the future should take into account natural disturbances such as fires and hurricanes, which have impact on world’s forested areas.
Forests and other ecosystems that control the global carbon cycle are these that are affected by climate change and extreme weather events the most. As stated by the lead author of the study, Dr. Yannick Le Page of PNNL, policy makers should consider the amount of carbon released in the atmosphere because of natural disturbances, and adjust their mitigation strategies by further reducing the human-caused carbon emissions.
The team used the existing Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM) and added the factor of disturbance impacts on ecosystems. They simulated changes in the interaction between human and earth systems up to year 2095 using different scenarios for changing economic conditions.
Natural disturbances were outlined as a key factor, which will have a tremendous effect on the global carbon cycle. As suggested by the authors, the way to reduce the economic cost for society would be to improve land-management practices, by integrating land-carbon sequestration, and to switch to low-carbon technology.
This study is the initial step towards successful prediction of ecosystem behaviour with changes in the frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change. The research will be taken further in order to establish how climate change will influence the rates of occurrence of natural disturbances.