The sunny side of climate change is a boost for NZ vineyards – but with ecosystem costs

A study by Chilean and Californian researchers to gauge the effects of climate change on global wine production over the next four decades finds New Zealand’s potential growing area could rise by 168 per cent.

The wine-growing areas around the Mediterranean and California, however, will be shrunk by climate change.

The study (here) is published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists used 17 different climate models to gauge the effects on nine major wine-producing areas. They used two different climate futures for 2050, one assuming a worst-case scenario with a 4.7C (8.5F) warming, the other a 2.5C increase.

Both forecast a radical re-ordering of the wine world.

The most drastic decline is expected in Europe, where the scientists found a 85% decrease in production in Bordeaux, Rhone and Tuscany.

The NZ Herald reports on the findings today (here).

New Zealand’s climate is forecast to warm by at least 1C by 2050, while the average rate for the world has been put at more than 2C.

The study found that within this period, areas suitable for growing grapes could shrink by as much as 73 per cent in parts of the globe.

While wine producing locations such as California and the Mediterranean stood to lose vine-friendly land, new areas would open up in New Zealand, western North America and Northern Europe.

The study identified potential expansion and opportunity in Canterbury, Marlborough coastal areas, inland of Wanganui and west from Martinborough to Masterton.

A CBS report (here) takes us further.

It says –

The researchers focused on the climate change impact on viticulture, the cultivation of grapevines, because there are almost no agricultural needs more sensitive to environment than that of producing grapes for wine. The success of the grapes and by default the wine product is consistently based on finding suitable regions with perfect temperatures for the growing season.

Serious ecological effects are foreshadowed.

The study says climate change may cause the establishment of vineyards at higher elevations that will increase impacts on upland ecosystems and may lead to conversion of natural vegetation as production shifts to higher latitudes in areas such as western North America.

This could have a huge impact on a global scale for the conservation of animals.

Scientists predict that there will be a struggle for land between agriculture and wildlife.

It will also impact access to freshwater in the newly designated vineyard areas and the ecosystems that water supports.

“Vineyards have long-lasting effects on habitat quality and may significantly impact freshwater resources,” the study found. “Vineyard establishment involves removal of native vegetation, typically followed by deep plowing, fumigation with methyl bromide or other soil sterilizing chemicals, and the application of fertilizers and fungicides,”

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