• Changes in the UK’s climate will, in the long term, have significant positive and negative impacts on agricultural and forestry production.
For agriculture, however, in the short term it is likely that technology and socio-economic factors will continue to be more influential drivers of change.
In contrast, the changing climate will be particularly important for forestry due to this sector’s long production cycle. •
The impacts of climate change on production will vary across the UK.
For example, warmer, drier summer conditions may have a more negative impact on production in the south and east than in wetter areas in the north and west.
Production in cool, wet upland areas may benefit from warmer and drier conditions, while production in lowland areas may fall. •
The impacts of climate change will also change over time, particularly as the benefits of warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons become outweighed by reductions in water availability. •
Warmer temperatures will increase the length of growing seasons and may increase production of crops such as sugar beet and leafy vegetables.
Crops such as autumn-sown cereals, however, may yield less than their potential if they mature earlier.
Heat stress in livestock, particularly dairy cows, may increase reducing productivity.
Forest productivity will increase slightly if other factors, particularly water availability, are not limiting. •
The increasing concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) in the atmosphere will continue to increase plant growth generally, although the amount will vary depending on other environmental variables, such as temperature and water availability. •
Changing rainfall patterns, increased evaporative demand and reduced availability of water for irrigation all threaten agricultural production, particularly in areas where water supplies are already under pressure.
Drier soil conditions will reduce growth of crops, pasture and trees.
Damaging periods of summer drought are likely to become more frequent, especially in the south.
Extended or repeated periods of drought may cause tree deaths, especially of young trees. •
Increased flooding, including that caused by sea-level rise, may lead to substantial losses in crop production in low-lying agricultural areas and may contribute to compaction, waterlogging and erosion of soil.
Wetter autumns and winters will threaten agricultural production by adversely affecting the timing of land-management operations. •
The threats to agricultural and forestry production posed by pests and diseases will increase as a result of extension of the geographical areas in which they are found, as well as the spread of newly introduced species and an overall rise in how abundant they are.
For trees, greater frequency of drought, heat stress and waterlogging is likely to increase damage and deaths resulting from attacks by pests and diseases. •
Climate change will affect the range and quality of the ecosystem services that agriculture and forestry not only provide, but also rely on.
These include climate control, flood regulation, biodiversity, pollination and nutrient cycling. •
The agriculture and forestry sectors have already adapted to change by introducing new genotypes, varieties, breeds and management practices.
As the climate changes, there will be a need for more anticipatory adaptation measures. •
Agriculture and forestry are components of larger biophysical, social and economic systems which will all be reacting and adapting to climate change in different ways, resulting in complex global changes whose impacts at local level are not easy to predict.
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