Over the next century, the warming climate will dramatically alter ecosystems — turning forests into grasslands, or grasslands into deserts, for example — threatening biodiversity and many natural systems humans rely on, according to new research.
In a study published Friday in the journal Science, researchers analyzed fossilized pollen and plant data across the globe and found that without major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, many of the planet’s ecosystems will look very different in the next 100 to 150 years.
Sarah Ivory, an assistant professor with Penn State’s department of Geosciences, co-authored the new study, which took five years to complete and included 42 scientists.
The team examined 594 ancient vegetation records — dating from the height of the last ice age, about 21,000 years ago, to the more recent period of warming, known as the Holocene, beginning roughly 10,000 years ago.
During that period, global temperatures rose about four to seven degrees Celsius (or 7 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit).