The research group led by Clive McAlpine of the University of Queensland is one of the most preeminent climate science research groups in the world.
Climate Science has already weblogged recently on one of their papers (see), and another outstanding contribution is listed below which documents even more the major role of landscape change on climate. The paper is
McAlpine, C.A., J. Syktus, J.G. Ryan, R.C. Deo, G.M. McKeon, H.A. McGowan, and S.R. Phinn, 2009:A continent under stress: interactions, feedbacks and risks associated with impact of modified land cover on Australia’s Climate. Global Change Biology, in press. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01939.x
The abstract reads
“Global climate change is the major and most urgent global environmental issue. Australia is already experiencing climate change as evidenced by higher temperatures and more frequent and severe droughts. These impacts are compounded by increasing land use pressures on natural resources and native ecosystems. This paper provides a synthesis of the interactions, feedbacks and risks of natural climate variability, climate change and land use/land cover change (LUCC) impacting on the Australian continent and how they vary regionally. We review evidence of climate change and underlying processes resulting from interactions between global warming caused by increased concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases and modification of the land surface. The consequences of ignoring the effect of LUCC on current and future droughts in Australia could have catastrophic consequences for the nation’s environment, economy and communities. We highlight the need for more integrated, long-term and adaptive policies and regional natural resource management strategies that restore the beneficial feedbacks between native vegetation cover and local-regional climate, to help ameliorate the impact of global warming.”
With respect to the policy implications of their analysis, they write
“The evidence provided here can be considered in the wider context of policy decisions affecting Australian land use and land cover. It provides a basis for including LUCC in climate risk management analyses by documenting the previously ignored feedback of the land surface on regional climate. Such analyses is useful to inform policy development in terms of balancing the beneficial effects of increased deep-rooted woody vegetation cover (in terms of climate, salinity risk, resilience, biodiversity, carbon storage) against higher costs (in terms of loss of land available for agriculture and human settlement).”
In their conclusions, they summarize their major points in the following text
“A number of lessons can be drawn from this paper that have wider implications beyond Australia:
1. The current global climate change agenda needs to recognize that climate change is a multidimensional issue, and that LUCC must be included in global and regional strategies to effectively mitigate climate change (sensu Feddema et al., 2005; Pielke, 2005).
2. A coordinated research effort is required to address the multidimensionality of climate change, including the role of LUCC and its dynamic interaction with increased concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. This requires evaluating: (i) the capacity of reforestation to ameliorate the impact of climate change at a regional scale; and (ii) if so, how much vegetation is required and where it should be located?
3. Reducing deforestation in the tropics and subtropics needs to be a global priority. This requires a strong and coordinated global and regional effort through a combination of regulatory frameworks and well constructed carbon markets to halt deforestation and actively facilitate reforestation. This would have additional benefits for a wide array of ecosystem services that underpin environmental sustainability.”
This paper is recommended to anyone who wants to learn that landscape changes are a first order climate forcing, and that a focus on reducing vulnerability to the entire spectrum of environmental variability and change (and not just the effects of increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2) is very much needed.