Current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are putting more than half of San Diego and Los Angeles counties’ natural vegetation at long-term risk from climate stress, with potential transformative implications — such as wildfires and beetle outbreaks — threatening the region’s landscape and the living things that depend on it, according to a study issued Thursday by UC Davis.
However, cutting emissions so that global temperatures increase by no more than 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit could reduce those impacts by half, said the study, published in the journal Ecosphere.
“At current rates of emissions, about 45-56 percent of all the natural vegetation in the state is at risk, or from 61,190 to 75,866 square miles,” said lead author James Thorne, a research scientist with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis. “If we reduce the rate to Paris accord targets, those numbers are lowered to between 21 and 28 percent of the lands at climatic risk.”
The study features maps of the state and shows the climate risk to 30 different vegetation types under different climate scenarios.
It projects that at current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, vegetation in southwestern California, the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains becomes more than 50 percent impacted by 2100, including 68 percent of the lands surrounding San Diego and Los Angeles.
“The natural landscapes that make up California provide the water, clean air and other natural benefits for all the people who live here,” Thorne said. “They provide the sanctuary for California’s high biodiversity that is globally ranked.”
–City News Service