Awful as some of the climate-change predictions are, this one might hit a lot of Northern California residents where it hurts (assuming their homes aren't gobbled up by the sea first): Global warming will dramatically impact many of the world's most famous wine-producing regions, according to a new study.
The first-ever worldwide analysis of climate change's impact on wine production and conservation, appearing today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests wine production will shift to new areas as climate change makes the existing ones less hospitable.
Researchers found the area suitable for wine production will shrink by as much as 73 percent by 2050 in certain parts of the globe — about 70 percent in California — with high potential for stress on rivers and other freshwater ecosystems as vineyards use water to cool grapes or irrigate to compensate for rising temperatures and declining rainfall.
"Climate change is going to move potential wine-producing regions all over the map," Lee Hannah, the study's lead author and senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International's new Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science and Economics, said in a news release.
"These global changes put the squeeze on wildlife and nature's capacity to sustain human life in some surprising places," Hannah said. "Consumer awareness, industry and conservation actions are all needed to help keep high quality wine flowing without unintended consequences for nature and the flows of goods and services it provides people. This is just the tip of the iceberg — the same will be true for many other crops."
The researchers looked at nine major wine producing areas: California, Western North America, Chile, Mediterranean Europe, Northern Europe, Cape Floristic region of South Africa, parts of Australia with Mediterranean climate, parts of Australia with non-Mediterranean climate and New Zealand.
"Chile and California are areas with traditions of irrigation and high Freshwater Impact Index values, indicating that their freshwater habitats may be most at risk as a result of climate change impacts on vineyard water use," the study found. "Adaptation strategies involving viticulture, vinification, marketing, land use planning, and water management can all help avoid conflicts with conservation objectives in areas of declining as well as expanding suitability."
Another key finding from the study is that new areas will become more productive, including parts of Western North America and Northern Europe. These places at higher latitudes and higher elevations will become increasingly suitable for wine making and sought after by vineyards as they search for the climatic conditions that are ideal for wine grape growing.
According to the study, the greatest area of increasing wine production suitability is in the Rocky Mountains near the Canadian-U.S. border, putting at risk species such as the grizzly bear, gray wolf and pronghorn.
Climate change will set up competition for land between agricultural and wildlife — wine grapes are but one example," said Rebecca Shaw, the study's co-author and associate vice president for the Environmental Defense Fund's Land, Water and Wildlife program. "This could have disastrous results for wildlife. Fortunately, there are pro-active solutions. We are creating incentive-based programs with private landowners to provide wildlife habitat as we expand our capacity to feed a growing planet in the future under a changing climate."