Jørgen E. Olesen

Effects of climate change on bioproduction

Jørgen E. Olesen, Aarhus University, Department of Agroecology


The world is at a crossroads. Global increases in population and wealth with rapidly increasing demands for food, energy, water and many other resources and ecosystems goods and services. Currently much of this provision of human needs are based on non-renewable resources, and at the same time polluting atmosphere and water and also greatly affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The three perhaps greatest interferences with the earth system is the pollution of ecosystems with excess nitrogen from agricultural production systems, loss of biodiversity through expansion of agriculture and managed forestry, and the emissions of greenhouse gases (including CO2) leading to changes in the climate system and potentially affecting biological systems, including production of food, feed, wood, bioenergy and many of the biomaterials on which human society increasingly depend. The effects of climate change as well as other pollutants vary greatly across the world, and effects on the production systems in the Nordic region may seemingly be positive. However, there are also many unresolved challenges, and on the balance even Nordic countries would benefit from halting climate change and stopping pollution. This is not easily done, and the challenge is therefore twofold; to continue striving for reducing emissions and changing our production systems and consumption patterns to sustainable practices, and on the other hand to adapt to the changing environmental conditions.

Recent research has clearly shown how important in particular temperature is for the functioning of individual species and of the ecosystems and production systems of which they are part. This goes for agricultural crop production systems, livestock production, forestry, freshwater fish and marine ecosystems. The observed climate change in the Nordic region has already resulted in dramatic shifts in suitability range of plant and animal species, as well as duration and timing of growing periods, reproduction activities, productivity of the various systems within agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In the even no so long term this is going to mean changes also in policies of regulating land use as well as management of fisheries. The challenge is to do this in a smart way that delivers the food and biomass for society while at the same time preserving the ecosystems services underpinning a sustainable society.