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Praeger Review: Changing climate and the Irish landscape

F.I. Woodward, T. Quaife and M.R. Lomas
Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy
Vol. 110B, No. 1 (June 2010), pp. 1-16
Published by: Royal Irish Academy
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Page Count: 16
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Praeger Review: Changing climate and the Irish landscape
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The impacts of current and future changes in climate have been investigated for Irish vegetation. Warming has been observed over the last two decades, with impacts that are also strongly influenced by natural oscillations of the surrounding ocean, seen as fluctuations in the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Satellite observations show that vegetation greenness increases in warmer years, a feature mirrored by increases in net ecosystem production observed for a grassland and a plantation forest. An ensemble of general circulation model simulations of future climates indicate temperature rises over the twenty-first century ranging from 1°C to 7°C, depending on future scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions. Net primary production is simulated to increase under all scenarios, due to the positive impacts of rising temperature, a modest rise of precipitation and rising carbon dioxide concentrations. In an optimistic scenario of reducing future emissions, CO₂ concentration is simulated to flatten from about 2070, although temperatures continue to increase. Under this scenario Ireland could become a source of carbon, whereas under all other emission scenarios Ireland is a sink for carbon that may increase by up to three-fold over the twenty-first century. A likely and unavoidable impact of changing climate is the arrival of alien plant species, which may disrupt ecosystems and exert negative impacts on native biodiversity. Alien species arrive continually, with about 250 dated arrivals in the twentieth century. A simulation model indicates that this rate of alien arrival may increase by anything between two and ten times, dependent on the future climatic scenario, by 2050. Which alien species may become severely disruptive is, however, not known.

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