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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Projects | IRI THESys | News | 'Narrowing uncertainties in the effects of elevated CO2 on crops’ published in Nature Food

'Narrowing uncertainties in the effects of elevated CO2 on crops’ published in Nature Food

Jointly led by THESys guest researcher Dr Delphine Deryng, an international team of scientists published their new article on December 11th.
'Narrowing uncertainties in the effects of elevated CO2 on crops’ published in Nature Food

FACE (Free-Air Carbon Enrichment) installation at SoyFACE in Illinois, USA (D. Deryng

In their latest article, Dr Delphine Deryng (IRI THESysNewClimate Institute) and a team of international experts reviewed four decades of experimental and modelling research on the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on crops to improve the accuracy of climate change impact assessments.

Climate change impact assessments help identify and quantify climate risks across all sectors, and provide essential information for the identification of sustainable adaptation and mitigation strategies. They are especially critical to the agricultural sector as agriculture both influences climate and is vulnerable to climate change. Agriculture productivity is in fact directly affected by CO2 concentrations levels, as rising CO2 stimulates photosynthesis and reduces crop water use.

Climate impacts modelling for agriculture has usually been carried out for scenarios that both include and exclude the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration on crops, due to the wide range of uncertainties in the magnitude of the effects and limited experimental evidence. Unsurprisingly, this approach has created misleading and incomplete perception of the risk of climate change impacts on agriculture.

In the new study published by Nature Food, the two leading authors Dr Deryng and Dr Andrea Toreti (Joint Research Centre of the European Commission) and their team concluded that the breadth of experimental evidence and growing robustness of crop modelling tools are now strong enough that scenarios which exclude the effects of CO2 are obsolete and should not be considered in climate change impact assessments.

This recommendation is a fundamental step towards improving the robustness and clarity of climate change impact assessments for agriculture, which guide mitigation and adaptation policies in the agriculture sector. The team also identified key knowledge gaps that remain, especially regarding CO2 effects on crop quality and the complex role of climate extremes under elevated CO2. Therefore, the paper proposes a roadmap for accelerating research progress on this topic.

This work concludes a multi-year international research activity which culminated in a workshop on the effects of CO2 on crops convening agronomists, crop modelers and climate policy advisers, co-organised by the JRC and the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) in Ispra in 2018.