Wet grasslands are threatened by future climate change, yet these are vital ecosystems for both conservation and agriculture, providing livelihoods for millions of people. These biologically diverse, transitional wetlands are defined by an abundance of grasses and periodic flooding, and maintained by regular disturbances such as grazing or cutting. This study summarizes relevant climate change scenarios projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and identifies implications for wet grasslands globally and regionally. Climate change is predicted to alter wet grassland hydrology, especially through warming, seasonal precipitation variability, and the severity of extreme events such as droughts and floods. Changes in the diversity, composition, and productivity of vegetation will affect functional and competitive relations between species. Extreme storm or flood events will favor ruderal plant species able to respond rapidly to environmental change. In some regions, wet grasslands may dry out during heatwaves and drought. C4 grasses and invasive species could benefit from warming scenarios, the latter facilitated by disturbances such as droughts, floods, and possibly wildfires. Agriculture will be affected as forage available for livestock will likely become less reliable, necessitating adaptations to cutting and grazing regimes by farmers and conservation managers, and possibly leading to land abandonment. It is recommended that agri-environment schemes, and other policies and practices, are adapted to mitigate climate change, with greater emphasis on water maintenance, flexible management, monitoring, and restoration of resilient wet grasslands.
Bibliographical note© 2016 Joyce et al. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
- agricultural production
- climate extremes
- ecosystem services
- Special Feature: Wetlands and Global Climate and Land-use Change