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Researchers from the University of Oxford, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the University of Bergen have published a new study taking the first step towards addressing why some regions are more sensitive than others to the impact of changes in climate.

Study identifies global ecosystems most sensitive to changes in climate

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The report identifies vital ecologically sensitive areas for ecosystem provision and poverty alleviation. The identification of properties that contribute to the persistence and resilience of ecosystems despite climate change constitutes a research priority of global relevance. It is therefore essential to identify those regions that are most sensitive to these changes

A novel and empirical approach to assess the relative sensitivity of ecosystems to climate changes has been taken in this study using a newly designed metric. The metric is called the Vegetation Sensitivity Index (VSI) and measures the sensitivity of vegetation to air temperature, water availability and cloud cover, and has been used to characterise ecosystems and their response to changes in climate over the past 14 years. This indexing method has allowed experts to quantify, for the first time, which aspects of the climate drive responses in the different regions and establish whether past climate patterns affect the present-day responses.

Alistair Seddon, Researcher at the Department of Biology, University of Bergen, said: 'Metrics like VSI represent one critical component of understanding how ecosystems respond to environmental variability. Now the challenge is to understand what the ecological mechanisms behind these patterns.'

Read more on the University website (opens new window)