Climate change and land-use change are essential environmental challenges to society that are also inseparably linked: the climate shapes the way people use land, by affecting food and water supplies; land-use change contributes to global and regional climate change by affecting land biogeochemical and biophysical processes.
More in detail, land-use and land-cover changes (LULCC) have a recognized effect on climate, both in terms of changes in the carbon cycle due to changes in vegetation and soil carbon (biogeochemical effects), but also through variations in the surface energy budget mediated by reflected sunlight, evapotranspiration, canopy structure, etc.
These phenomena are collectively known as biophysical effects and result in changes in seasonal and/or annual air surface temperatures and precipitation with prevalently local to regional effects, which depend – in sign and in magnitude – on the latitude and ecosystems where they occur.
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Although biophysical impacts on climate can be relevant at the regional scale, the international UNFCCC process focuses only on the biogeochemical effects.
A study recently accepted and published on Environmental Research Letters (Perugini et al., 2017; among the authors, CMCC researchers Lucia Perugini, Luca Caporaso and Sergio Marconi of IAFES Division) reviewed existing scientific literature with the objective to provide an overview of the state-of-the-knowledge of the biophysical land cover changes (LCC) climate effects, in support of the assessment of mitigation/adaptation land policies.
Results highlighted that land cover changes have a strong regional effect on temperature and precipitation and a non-negligible effects on global temperature. Regional/local biophysical effects following LCC are important for local climate, water cycle, ecosystems, their productivity and biodiversity, and thus important to consider in the formulation of adaptation policy.
A tool for policy makers that supports quantification and monitoring of biophysical effects of land use change is currently under development and will soon available.
For more information about this topic, visit the page of the CMCC Seminar “Biophysical effects on temperature and precipitation due to land cover change”