As the impacts of a changing climate begin to be felt, the future of many species hang in the balance – including those that humans rely upon for our own survival.
Recently, Michele Kohout reported on a study that showed some of the deleterious effects that severe heat waves will have on plant species, and The Guardian published a summary of the widespread dieback of native American forests caused by a confluence of disease, insect activity and drought.
Now, a study from The University of Arizona highlights how the predicted rate of climate change will far outstrip the rate of ‘niche change’ in grasses.
Grasses currently provide around 50 percent of calories consumed by humans, including species like wheat, rice and corn. Wild grasses also fill critical roles in ecosystems worldwide.
The researchers of the study estimated the rates of climatic niche change in 236 grass species and compared them against rates of projected climate change by the year 2070.
“Our results show that projected climate change is consistently faster than rates of niche change in grasses, typically by more than 5,000-fold for temperature-related variables,” the report states.
While the authors admit that their results don’t reveal any direct impacts on grasses under future climate conditions, they do raise serious concerns for the future health of grasses and the species that rely on them.