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The Impacts on Agriculture, Forest, and Natural Ecosystems (IAFENT) Division activities focus on the diagnosis and forecast of climate change impacts on agriculture and on natural and semi-natural earth ecosystems, mainly with a Mediterranean climate but also for all the globe. A very important role is played by the models concerning agriculture and its water demand, the carbon cycle and its feedbacks with the climate system, the desertification processes and vegetation vulnerability to forests fires.

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  • Risk analysis and management focusing in fire, drought, and climate change

    Climate and weather conditions, land use, vegetation and human activities have a complex and combined effect on ignition, behaviour, and generally,  fire risk. Currently, few studies have assessed the impacts of climate change on fire risk in the Mediterranean. It therefore seems appropriate to investigate the potential future impacts and management strategies.

    The macro-activity consists of the following research lines:

    Development and implementation of new approaches to evaluate fire danger A potential fire hazard model (IFI - Integrated Fire Index), previously developed by CMCC, associated with both land use and climate change scenarios in the medium and long term, allows the assessment of the future impacts and the possible strategies of planning, management, and adaptation. Another important application concerns the prediction of the potential fire hazard at seasonal scale for the Euro-Mediterranean area, through the coupling between different danger models and the seasonal climate prediction system SPS (Seasonal Prediction System) developed by INGV -CMCC.

    Evaluation of a model battery in order to define climate impact on drought in Mediterranean ecosystems Other support tools and methodologies for fire planning and management are under development and implementation. The identification of areas characterized by high probability of occurrence of large fires or fires of high intensity is carried out through latest technology propagation models. The simulations of these models , based on Minimum Travel Time (MTT), are driven by extreme weather conditions based on historical data and climate change scenarios. The analyzes focus on Burn Probability (BP), Fire Size (FS), Conditional Flame Length (CFL). Furthermore, in support of air quality management plans and fire emission mitigation , new modeling approaches for estimating emissions in the Euro-Mediterranean regional scale are being developed. The ultimate goal is to evaluate the interaction between climate change, forest fire behavior and emissions of pollutants.

    Support systems for fire adaptation and management policies to climate changes Another important aspect in the context of global changes and their effect on forest fires is represented by intense drought conditions . The activity consists firstly on the performance evaluation of a suite of models in order to determine the effects of extreme conditions on the water status of the fuel. Moreover, in addition to various indices and models of aridity known in the literature commonly used, the Fuel Dryness Index (FD), based on biophysical principles associated with the type of energy exchange and previously developed by the CMCC, is applied to estimate the water conditions of the vegetation.

  • The main objectives are:

    1. Providing CMCC with a model of LUC coupled to economic evaluations and linked to strategic production sectors as agriculture;
    2. Develop simulations at a global and regional scale (Mediterranean basin) following ensemble forecasting procedures for an evaluation of uncertainty.

    On the basis of the prearranged objectives, the macro-activity is characterized by the following activities:

    • Development of the model of land use change (LUC@CMCC)
    • Coupling of the LUC model with the economic one in cooperation with the CIP division
    • Integration of the LUC model with evaluations on the agricultural sector in cooperation with the macro-activity “Adaptation strategies for the agriculture and water resources”
    • Introduction of a module for extremes (for example fires) in cooperation with the macro-activity “Analysis and management of risk connected to fire, drought and climate change”
    • Simulation of change of land use using the climate projections realized by CMCC at a global and regional scale
    • Support of the model to the impact evaluations on earth ecosystems, in cooperation with the macro-activity “Earth ecosystems and climate change”
  • Adaptation strategies for the agriculture and water resources

    A good balance between mitigation and adaptation requires the development of appropriate decision support tools that meet the criteria of efficiency and sharing. Some knowledge gaps in this area are still relevant and require a discussion of qualitative and quantitative definition of what phenomenon is happening, the attribution of priorities and finally the set-up of specific actions for their containment.

    The macro-activity consists of the following research lines:

    Adaptation strategies evaluation for the main Eu-Med crops and analysis of land capability

    The evaluation of adaptation strategies uses an integrated methodology which provides the coupling between the dynamic models of crop simulation (such as the models implemented in the software package DSSAT, STICS or other), climate models, emission scenarios and downscaling techniques. Among the adaptation strategies are considered different crop management practices (such as processes, rotations, changes in planting dates of crops, etc.). Among the climate change scenarios with high spatial resolution, those produced by the CMCC through simulations with the regional model are also used. Particular attention will be paid to the evaluation of direct and indirect effects on crops resulting from increased atmospheric concentration of CO2.

    Evaluation of tool for water management in agriculture

    The direct effect of global changes on water resources management  is another important aspect to consider. Different tools such as SIMETAW model and others providing evapotranspiration, request and scheduling of irrigation, and water needs information can be used to develop guidelines for water resources planning in agricultural areas. Another innovative tool that wiil be used is the coupled model WRF-ACASA that, starting from the reconstruction of turbulent flows in the lower atmosphere (ACASA) and prediction of weather variables at the mesoscale (WRF), allows an accurate estimate of crop evapotranspiration.

    Evaluation of organic carbon pool variation in soils

    Finally, among the mitigation strategies, more and more attention is given to management policies and protection of soil and to estimate changes in the pool of organic carbon in soil (Jones et al., 2005). In this context, from the use of scenarios of climate change and land use (products from CMCC), projections will be made using models in the literature (e.g. RothC). These methodologies will be helpful for the evaluation of changes in soil organic carbon, and then for obtaining databases for analysis and preparation of strategies for adaptation and mitigation.

  • The main objectives of this macro-activity are:
    • Development, integration and application of models for the evaluation of climate change impacts (CC) on terrestrial ecosystems;
    • Implementation and check of Ensemble Forecasting (EF) practices for impact studies;
    • Integrated analysis of vulnerability at Mediterranean and global scale to climate change (CC) and land use change (LUC).
    The activity consists in the refinement and further development of modelling approaches realized during past years. The practice used is the  Ensemble Forecasting for Impact Studies (EFIS), particularly in two research areas: i) the statistical modelling for the projection of the areal shift of forest types (Land Suitability for Forest, LSF) (Activity A);  and ii) the process-based modelling on carbon and water cycles (Activity B), in both cases under the CC and LUC forcing. The choise of using this approach is due to the growing necessity of providing, in addition to plausible impacts scenarios, suitable analysis of uncertainties linked to them, to support stronger mitigation and adaptation strategies. Soil is one element of the ecosystem that has been often neglected but it plays an essential role thanks to its interactions with water and vegetation: soil modelling on a local scale is part of the Activity C. Moreover, there is a new and strategic activity regarding modelling in agriculture that can be of support for decisions related to reduction of emissions (not only CO2) and for the bio-energies production (Activity D). Finally, starting from the results of different activities, particularly in cases of homogeneity of formats, spatial (global/regional) and temporal scales of simulation, it will be realized an integrated assessment of current and future conditions of the main ecosystem components (vegetation, soil, water), to characterize their vulnerability (Activity E).
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