An international research study into the impact of rising temperatures on the ecosystem analysed clues from the Ice Age to reveal the dramatic transformations that could take place in landscapes across the world.
The study was led by the University of Arizona and involved a team of 42 researchers from around the world, including from the Australian National University (ANU).
The research team studied past changes to vegetation at 594 sites across every continent except Antarctica to assess the risk of future changes to ecosystems globally.
Aware of the impact of temperature changes on vegetation, the researchers sought to determine how ecosystems might be transformed due to carbon emissions.
Rising temperatures as the Earth emerged from the Ice Age badly impacted the vegetation – the study found that two-thirds of the world’s vegetation underwent significant changes from 21,000 years ago until the pre-industrial era, when the Earth warmed by four to seven degrees Celsius.
Similar changes are already being witnessed across Australia with declines observed in the Mountain Ash forests of Victoria and the Pencil Pine forests in Tasmania.
ANU contributed and analysed datasets, based on ancient pollen records, for a large number of sites across Australia, the Pacific and South East Asia.