The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

April 11, 2013

Wine-growing regions could shift, climate change study says

That bottle of Bordeaux you put aside may become even rarer in the next few decades as climate change could reduce wine grape production in traditional parts of the world and move it elsewhere, researchers say. Danish Cabernet, anyone?

Wine grape production’s sensitivity to climate makes it a good test case for what could happen in the next several decades. And the land suitable for viticulture in current major wine producing regions could be reduced by 20 percent to 70 percent by 2050, depending on the amount of greenhouse gases produced, the researchers said this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An increasingly affluent global population is likely to create more demand for wine and ensure that wine grapes will continue to be grown in current areas as much as possible and be grown in new areas as well, the researchers said.

The researchers say they expected a “major global redistribution of suitability” for wine grape production regions. That has significance for what happens to water resources and animal habitats, Lee Hannah, an author of the study and senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International’s new Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science, said at a news conference on the paper.

That could mean that wine grape production moves from regions such as Mediterranean France to higher latitudes, including Northern Europe and the western U.S. At present, Mediterranean regions, with dry and warm summers and cool and wet winters, are especially suitable.

“The actual extent of those redistributions will depend on market forces, available adaptations options for vineyards, and continued popularity of wine with consumers,” researchers said.

Climate change could drive changes in viticulture that will change the ecosystems of the Mediterranean and threaten native habitats in areas where the industry goes, the researchers said. And a warming climate could force vineyard managers in traditional regions to try to cool grapes on the vine, and bring in more water - affecting the freshwater ecosystems.

The researchers, from several institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere, used more than 100 models to assess potential climate change effects on wine growing. They said agreement using various models was high, both for signaling declines in suitability for wine grapes in the Mediterranean and projecting increases in Northern Europe, New Zealand and western North America.

There are some coping strategies available, and others are needed, such as investments in new varieties of grapes that have different climate tolerances - such as withstanding heat stress - and new ways to manage vineyards, the researchers said.

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