Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study claims to be “the first ever worldwide analysis of the impacts of climate change on wine production and conservation.”
The international team of researchers led by Conservation International warned that in certain parts of the world the area suitable for wine production is due to shrink by “as much as 73% by 2050”, with particular pressure on local water resources.
A Google Earth “flyover” (see video below) compiled by the report’s authors shows a significant northerly shift for Europe’s viticultural regions, putting even areas such as Bordeaux and the Rhône under threat.
With pressure on water supply already a major concern in parts of Australia, this country is also expected to witness a decline in suitable vineyard area, while an increased number of regions area expected to open up in New Zealand.
“Climate change is going to move potential wine-producing regions all over the map,” remarked Dr Lee Hannah, lead author of the report, which raised the prospect of suitable vineyard area opening up in key conservation regions such as the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park and Central China.
As a result of this predicted shift, scientists fear that the accompanying removal of natural vegetation, chemical spraying and fencing could have a damaging effect on native wildlife species including the grizzly bear, pronghorn and endangered giant panda.
“Climate change will set up competition for land between agricultural and wildlife – wine grapes are but one example. This could have disastrous results for wildlife,” concluded Dr Rebecca Shaw, co-author of the report.
“Fortunately, there are pro-active solutions,” she continued, outlining: “We are creating incentive-based programs with private landowners to provide wildlife habitat as we expand our capacity to feed a growing planet in the future under a changing climate.”
Despite this current effort, Hannah observed that more needs to be done “Consumer awareness, industry and conservation actions are all needed to help keep high quality wine flowing without unintended consequences for nature and the flows of goods and services it provides people,” she remarked. “This is just the tip of the iceberg – the same will be true for many other crops.”
Among the preventative measures recommended by the report was the suggestion that businesses plan vineyard expansion in partnership with conservationists in order to avoid “areas of high environmental importance”.
It also called for greater investment in grape varieties that are better adapted to the climate, as well as encouraging consumers to buy wines from vineyards that use sustainable practices.
On this last point, co-author Patrick Roehrdanz explained: “Consumers can do their part by purchasing wine from vineyards that participate in programs like the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance or the South African Biodiversity and Wine Initiative and through supporting organisations that are dedicated to finding solutions such as Vinecology, Conservation International or the Environmental Defense Fund.”