This article was published in the Science of the Total Environment journal in July 2019.
Wetlands have been declining worldwide over the last century with climate change becoming an additional pressure, especially in regions already characterized by water deficit.This paper investigate show climate change will affect the values and functions of Mediterranean seasonally-flooded wetlands with emergent vegetation.
We simulated the future evolution of water balance,wetland condition and water volumes necessary to maintain these ecosystems at mid-and late-21st century, in 229 localities around the Mediterranean basin.We considered future projections of the relevant climatic variables under two Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios assuming a stabilization (RCP4.5) or increase (RCP 8.5) of greenhouse gases emissions.
We found similar increases of water deficits at most localities around 2050 under both RCP scenarios. By 2100, however, water deficits under RCP 8.5 are expected to be more severe and will impact all localities. Simulations performed under current conditions show that 97% of localities could have wetland habitats in good state. By 2050, however, this proportion would decrease to 81% and 68% under the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5 scenarios, respectively, decreasing further to 52% and 27% by 2100.
Our results suggest that wetlands can persist with up to a 400 mm decrease in annual precipitation. Such resilience to climate change is attributed to the semi-permanent character of wetlands (lower evaporation on dry ground) and their capacity to act as reservoir (higher precipitation expected in some countries during winter). Countries at highest risk of wetland degradation and loss are Algeria, Morocco, Portugal and Spain. Degradation of wetlands with emergent vegetation will negatively affect their biodiversity and the services they provide by eliminating animal refuges and primary resources for industry and tourism. A sound strategy to preserve these wetlands would consist of proactive management to reduce non-climate stressors.
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