Even if climate change is halted, ecosystems will probably continue to change for a long time, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. The work suggests that our commitment to future changes in ecosystems through past changes in climate needs to be taken into account when determining levels of 'dangerous climate change'.
Chris Jones and colleagues analysed simulations with a coupled climate-vegetation model to investigate long-term effects of climatic changes on terrestrial ecosystems. They ran a number of climate-change simulations but stabilized the climate in each run at a different level of atmospheric greenhouse gases. In their simulations, forest coverage continues to change significantly for decades after the climatic boundary conditions have been held constant.
The authors conclude that substantial reduction in tropical forest coverage and spreading of high-latitude forests could be inevitable before the ecosystem changes are observed.