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Spatial sensitivity of grassland yields to weather variations in Austria and its implications for the future☆

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      Abstract

      Agricultural production fulfills economic, ecological and structural functions. Despite technological advances, agricultural production remains sensitive to climate variations. In central Europe, climate change is predicted to bring more rainfall in winter, less rainfall in summer, and increased drought risk among other effects. Grassland agriculture, which is the dominant land use in Alpine regions, may be significantly affected by these climatic changes in the future. Motivated by this issue, the susceptibility of grassland yields to weather variations in Austria is empirical evaluated as a case study. The major objective of this study is to derive spatially distributed indications for climate change exposure by assessing the impacts of weather variations on past yield. It is assumed that reduced water supply during summer constitutes a threat to grassland productivity in regions that are warmer and drier already today. On the contrary, increased spring temperatures may improve grassland productivity in cooler regions like Alpine valleys, since the earlier snow melt leads to an extension of the growth period. Regression analyses are used for evaluating the relation between yearly yields and spring temperatures or water supply in summer, respectively. Water supply is thereby expressed by aggregated precipitation sums and the Climatic Water Balance (CWB). Input data are a meteorological time series as well as yearly yields available for 25 years between 1970 and 2010 and 99 districts in Austria. Yearly yields show a significant (P < 0.05) and positive dependency on water supply in summer for the eastern Austrian lowlands. The combination of temperature in spring and CWB in summer is only significant for six districts in the east of Austria. The positive impact of higher spring temperatures could not be verified. Generally, the regression coefficients are not very high, which indicates that temperature and water supply do not fully describe grassland productivity. Projected climate change may increasingly constitute a risk to yield reliability in the east of the country. That in turn, requires consideration in agricultural development plans and a quantification of these impacts from a social-economic perspective.

      Highlights

      •Grassland exhibits considerable ecological and economical functions in Austria.•Climate change may bring about a substantial shift in yield reliability.•The analysis of a 25-year time series shows dependencies on water supply in summer.•Climate forecasts indicate a worsening situation for regions sensitive to dry summers.

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      Crop and pasture response to climate change.

      We review recent research of importance to understanding crop and pasture plant species response to climate change. Topics include plant response to elevated CO(2) concentration, interactions with climate change variables and air pollutants, impacts of increased climate variability and frequency of extreme events, the role of weeds and pests, disease and animal health, issues in biodiversity, and vulnerability of soil carbon pools. We critically analyze the links between fundamental knowledge at the plant and plot level and the additional socio-economic variables that determine actual production and trade of food at regional to global scales. We conclude by making recommendations for current and future research needs, with a focus on continued and improved integration of experimental and modeling efforts.
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        We review and qualitatively assess the importance of interactions and feedbacks in assessing climate change impacts on water and agriculture in Europe. We focus particularly on the impact of future hydrological changes on agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and adaptation options. Future projected trends in European agriculture include northward movement of crop suitability zones and increasing crop productivity in Northern Europe, but declining productivity and suitability in Southern Europe. This may be accompanied by a widening of water resource differences between the North and South, and an increase in extreme rainfall events and droughts. Changes in future hydrology and water management practices will influence agricultural adaptation measures and alter the effectiveness of agricultural mitigation strategies. These interactions are often highly complex and influenced by a number of factors which are themselves influenced by climate. Mainly positive impacts may be anticipated for Northern Europe, where agricultural adaptation may be shaped by reduced vulnerability of production, increased water supply and reduced water demand. However, increasing flood hazards may present challenges for agriculture, and summer irrigation shortages may result from earlier spring runoff peaks in some regions. Conversely, the need for effective adaptation will be greatest in Southern Europe as a result of increased production vulnerability, reduced water supply and increased demands for irrigation. Increasing flood and drought risks will further contribute to the need for robust management practices. The impacts of future hydrological changes on agricultural mitigation in Europe will depend on the balance between changes in productivity and rates of decomposition and GHG emission, both of which depend on climatic, land and management factors. Small increases in European soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks per unit land area are anticipated considering changes in climate, management and land use, although an overall reduction in the total stock may result from a smaller agricultural land area. Adaptation in the water sector could potentially provide additional benefits to agricultural production such as reduced flood risk and increased drought resilience. The two main sources of uncertainty in climate impacts on European agriculture and water management are projections of future climate and their resulting impacts on water and agriculture. Since changes in climate, agricultural ecosystems and hydrometeorology depend on complex interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and hydrological cycle there is a need for more integrated approaches to climate impacts assessments. Methods for assessing options which "moderate" the impact of agriculture in the wider sense will also need to consider cross-sectoral impacts and socio-economic aspects. Crown Copyright © 2009. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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          Spatial distribution of grassland productivity and land use in Europe

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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [a ]DK GIScience, Schillerstraße 30, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
            [b ]University of Salzburg, Hellbrunner Straße 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
            Author notes
            []Corresponding author. Tel.: +43 650 8424928. christian.neuwith@ 123456stud.sbg.ac.at
            Contributors
            Journal
            Appl Geogr
            Appl Geogr
            Applied Geography (Sevenoaks, England)
            Butterworths
            0143-6228
            1 December 2013
            December 2013
            : 45
            : 332-341
            4375831
            S0143-6228(13)00201-4
            10.1016/j.apgeog.2013.08.010
            © 2013 The Authors

            This document may be redistributed and reused, subject to certain conditions.

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