Navigation Links
Study: Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies

Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops.

A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security.

The study looked in detail at global production of four leading food crops rice, wheat, corn, and soy that account for more than half the calories humans consume worldwide. It predicts that effects will vary considerably from region to region, and that some of the crops are much more strongly affected by one or the other of the factors: For example, wheat is very sensitive to ozone exposure, while corn is much more adversely affected by heat.

The research was carried out by Colette Heald, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, former CEE postdoc Amos Tai, and Maria van Martin at Colorado State University. Their work is described this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Heald explains that while it's known that both higher temperatures and ozone pollution can damage plants and reduce crop yields, "nobody has looked at these together." And while rising temperatures are widely discussed, the impact of air quality on crops is less recognized.

The effects are likely to vary widely by region, the study predicts. In the United States, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops. But in other regions, the outcome "will depend on domestic air-pollution policies," Heald says. "An air-quality cleanup would improve crop yields."

Overall, with all other factors being equal, warming may reduce crop yields globally by about 10 percent by 2050, the study found. But the effects of ozone pollution are more complex some crops are more strongly affected by it than others which suggests that pollution-control measures could play a major role in determining outcomes.

Ozone pollution can also be tricky to identify, Heald says, because its damage can resemble other plant illnesses, producing flecks on leaves and discoloration.

Potential reductions in crop yields are worrisome: The world is expected to need about 50 percent more food by 2050, the authors say, due to population growth and changing dietary trends in the developing world. So any yield reductions come against a backdrop of an overall need to increase production significantly through improved crop selections and farming methods, as well as expansion of farmland.

While heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact. For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 percent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.

Under some scenarios, the researchers found that pollution-control measures could make a major dent in the expected crop reductions following climate change. For example, while global food production was projected to fall by 15 percent under one scenario, larger emissions decreases projected in an alternate scenario reduce that drop to 9 percent.

Air pollution is even more decisive in shaping undernourishment in the developing world, the researchers found: Under the more pessimistic air-quality scenario, rates of malnourishment might increase from 18 to 27 percent by 2050 about a 50 percent jump; under the more optimistic scenario, the rate would still increase, but that increase would almost be cut in half, they found.

Agricultural production is "very sensitive to ozone pollution," Heald says, adding that these findings "show how important it is to think about the agricultural implications of air-quality regulations. Ozone is something that we understand the causes of, and the steps that need to be taken to improve air quality."


Contact: Kimberly Allen
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Related biology news :

1. Mouse study: Natural birth may strengthen the immune system
2. USF study: Amphibians can acquire resistance to deadly fungus
3. New study: Ancient Arctic sharks tolerated brackish water 50 million years ago
4. Study: To address climate change, nothing substitutes for reducing CO2 emissions
5. Study: In wild yak society, moms are the real climbers
6. Study: Iron consumption can increase risk for heart disease
7. Study: SSRI use during pregnancy associated with autism and developmental delays in boys
8. Study: Deforestation could intensify climate change in Congo Basin by half
9. Study: Black carbon is ancient by the time it reaches seafloor
10. Study: Salamanders shrinking due to climate change
11. Study: Stress impacts ability to get pregnant
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/7/2015)... -- --> --> According ... third quarter 2015 amounted to around 960 MSEK. This exceeds ... was communicated 20 August 2015. --> ... a continued growing demand for the company,s products, the revenues ... than during the third quarter. The revenue guidance for 2015 ...
(Date:10/2/2015)... Oct. 02 2015 ... "Enforcing the Law Using Biometrics" report ... has announced the addition of the "Enforcing ... offering. --> Research and Markets ( ... "Enforcing the Law Using Biometrics" report ...
(Date:9/29/2015)... Calif. , Sept. 29, 2015 ... improves employee productivity while also saving energy , ... such as Low Power Active Mode and embedded Fujitsu ... transformation Fujitsu today shows that good ... new and refreshed models to its enterprise desktop and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2015)... BRUSSELS , Oct. 12, 2015  Amgen (NASDAQ: ... findings from an exploratory sub-study of the previously reported romosozumab ... in an oral plenary session at the American Society for ... Seattle . 2 ... exploratory sub-study data showed that, at month 12, the investigational ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: MDXG ), the leading regenerative ... to develop and market advanced products and therapies for ... and the Dental sectors of healthcare, announced today the ... Company has been dismissed by the court.  ... "As we suspected, this case was brought by an ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... Oct. 12, 2015  Rebiotix Inc. today announced ... designated its lead Microbiota Restoration Therapy (MRT) RBX2660 ... recurrent Clostridium difficile (C diff) infection, ... causes 29,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. 1 ... that was founded to revolutionize the treatment of ...
(Date:10/12/2015)... octubre de 2015 El 8 de octubre, ... récord en el congreso con su declaración acerca del ... Plasma Awareness Week (IPAW), que se celebrará del 11 ... la Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA) y ... , Aumentar la concienciación mundial acerca de la donación ...
Breaking Biology Technology: