Crop yield response to climate change varies with cropping intensity

Abstract

Projections of the response of crop yield to climate change at different spatial scales are known to vary. However, understanding of the causes of systematic differences across scale is limited. Here, we hypothesize that heterogeneous cropping intensity is one source of scale dependency. Analysis of observed global data and regional crop modelling demonstrate that areas of high vs. low cropping intensity can have systematically different yields, in both observations and simulations. Analysis of global crop data suggests that heterogeneity in cropping intensity is a likely source of scale dependency for a number of crops across the globe. Further crop modelling and a meta-analysis of projected tropical maize yields are used to assess the implications for climate change assessments. The results show that scale dependency is a potential source of systematic bias. We conclude that spatially comprehensive assessments of climate impacts based on yield alone, without accounting for cropping intensity, are prone to systematic overestimation of climate impacts. The findings therefore suggest a need for greater attention to crop suitability and land use change when assessing the impacts of climate change.

Citation

Challinor, A.J.; Parkes, B.; Ramirez-Villegas, J. Crop yield response to climate change varies with cropping intensity. Global Change Biology (2015) 21 (4) 1679-1688. [DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12808]

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