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Pasture and Rangeland Responses to Rising CO2 Concentrations and Projected Changes in Climate
Reference
Izaurralde, R.C., Thomson, A.M., Morgan, J.A., Fay, P.A., Polley, H.W. and Hatfield, J.L. 2011. Climate impacts on agriculture: Implications for forage and rangeland production. Agronomy Journal 103: 371-381.

Background
The authors write that "projections of temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States during the next 50 years anticipate a 1.5 to 2°C warming and a slight increase in precipitation as a result of global climate change." Hence, they ...

What was done
... "review the literature on responses of pastureland and rangeland species to rising atmospheric CO2 and climate change (temperature and precipitation) and discuss plant and management factors likely to influence pastureland and rangeland responses to change (e.g., community composition, plant competition, perennial growth habit, seasonal productivity, and management methods.)."

What was learned
Izaurralde et al. say their review of the literature suggests that "pasture and rangeland species responses to climate change will be complex," because of the fact that "the major climatic drivers (CO2, temperature and precipitation) interact with plant and management factors in complex and still poorly understood ways," while they conclude that "increases in CO2 and precipitation will enhance rangeland net primary production (NPP), whereas increased air temperatures will either increase or decrease NPP," depending on other concomitant conditions.

Nevertheless, and in spite of these complexities, they indicate that, "in general, the response of pasture species to increasing CO2 is expected to be consistent with the CO2 response of C3 and C4 crop species," both of which are positive; but they feel that "uncertainty in the future projections of precipitation and temperature change preclude the design of specific land management adaptation options at this time." Thus, they suggest that ...

What it means
... "diversified crop-livestock production systems would provide increased resilience to conditions of higher CO2, higher temperatures, and uncertain precipitation changes, and therefore help ensure pasture and rangeland production under future climates," which does indeed appear to be the wise choice to make, seeing it is generally better to be safe than risk being sorry.

Reviewed 25 May 2011