Adapting to climate change could have profound environmental repercussions, according to a new study from the University of East Anglia, although it may be broadly beneficial for agriculture.
Lead researcher Dr Carlo Fezzi, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said, “Climate change is a just a little bit more complicated than we previously thought. We need to take into account not only the direct impact of climate change, but also how people will respond to such change.”
The research team looked at the interaction between agricultural land use and river water quality – both of which will be heavily impacted by climate change. They studied land use and river quality from more than half a million records dating back to the early 1970s and used computer models to predict not only how climate change would lead to agricultural changes, but how these agricultural changes would impact water quality.
“We found that a moderately warmer climate in the range of between 1oC and 3oC will be mainly beneficial for agriculture in Great Britain. Particularly in the eastern uplands and midlands, warmer temperatures will boots crop yield and allow for more livestock. But some localised losses can be expected – particularly in the east of England, where lower rainfall may increase the risk of drought,” explained Dr Fezzi.
“This intensification in agricultural practices in response to climate change, however, will also create new environmental pressures. For example changes in the agricultural sector will have a knock on effect for water quality – because they will cause increased amounts of nitrates and phosphates in streams and rivers… This does not mean that adaptation is bad and that we should develop policies to discourage it. That would be very short-sighted.”