Climate Change Effects And Adaptation Strategies For US Agriculture And Forests
February 9, 2013

Impact Of Climate Change On Agriculture Will Be Mixed: USDA

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Over the next 25 years, increasing temperatures will have a “generally detrimental” impact on most types of crops and livestock, according to one of two reports detailing climate change and adaptation strategies released earlier this week by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The report, entitled “Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation,” states that the effects of global warming will be mixed over the next 25 years.

Higher temperatures may force crop production areas “to follow the temperature range for optimal growth and yield, though production in any given location will be more influenced by available soil water during the growing season,” the agency said. “Weed control costs total more than $11 billion a year in the U.S.; those costs are expected to rise with increasing temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations.”

“Changing climate will also influence livestock production,” they added. “Heat stress for any specific type of livestock can damage performance, production, and fertility, limiting the production of meat, milk, or eggs. Changes in forage type and nutrient content will likely influence grazing management needs. Insect and disease prevalence are expected to increase under warmer and more humid conditions, diminishing animal health and productivity.”

According to a second USDA report, entitled “Effects of Climate Variability and Change on Forest Ecosystems: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis for the US Forest Sector,” reports that the ability of woodlands to provide clean drinking water and serve as a habitat for wildlife will be changed by an increasing population, greater demand for those services, and a number of other short- and long-term factors.

“The most rapidly visible and significant short-term effects on forest ecosystems will be caused by fire, insects, invasive species, and combinations of multiple stressors, often occurring with increased frequency and severity,” the agency said. “Although some regions will be affected more than others, these disturbances are likely to change the structure and function of ecosystems across millions of acres over a short period of time with detrimental effects on forest resources.”

Both peer-reviewed studies were created to provide input to the US National Climate Assessment, and were completed by scientists from the USDA, as well as those representing different American universities, non-governmental organizations, industrial groups and private sector researchers, they said. The reports analyze the impact that global warming will have on farms, forests, prairies , and rural communities.

“These reports present the challenges that U.S. agriculture and forests will face in this century from global climate change,” William Hohenstein, Director of the Climate Change Program  Office in USDA´s Office of the Chief Economist, said in a statement. “They give us a framework for understanding the implications of climate change, in order to meet our future demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel.”

“The agricultural report indicates increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, rising temperatures, and altered precipitation patterns will affect agricultural productivity,” the USDA added. “Climate change will exacerbate the stresses already occurring from weeds, insects, and disease. Increases in the incidence of extreme weather events will have an increasing influence on agricultural productivity. Over the next 25 years, the effects of climate change on agricultural production and economic outcomes for both producers and consumers in the United States are expected to be mixed, depending on regional conditions.”