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Keywords:

  • Anthropocene;
  • biodiversity;
  • biome refugia;
  • climate change;
  • global circulation models;
  • mid-Holocene;
  • no-analogue;
  • resilience

Abstract

Aim

To analyse global patterns of climate during the mid-Holocene and conduct comparisons with pre-industrial and projected future climates. In particular, to assess the exposure of terrestrial biomes and ecoregions to climate-related risks during the Holocene–Anthropocene transition starting at the pre-industrial period.

Location

Terrestrial ecosystems of the Earth.

Methods

We calculated long-term climate differences (anomalies) between the mid-Holocene (6 ka cal bp, mH), pre-industrial conditions and projections for 2100 (middle-strength A1B scenario) using six global circulation models available for all periods. Climate differences were synthesized with multivariate statistics and average principal component loadings of temperature and precipitation differences (an estimate of climate-related risks) were calculated on 14 biomes and 766 ecoregions.

Results

Our results suggest that most of the Earth's biomes will probably undergo changes beyond the mH recorded levels of community turnover and range shifts because the magnitude of climate anomalies expected in the future are greater than observed during the mH. A few biomes, like the remnants of North American and Euro-Asian prairies, may experience only slightly greater degrees of climate change in the future as compared with the mH. In addition to recent studies that have identified equatorial regions as the most sensitive to future climate change, we find that boreal forest, tundra and vegetation of the Equatorial Andes could be at greatest risk, since these regions will be exposed to future climates that are well outside natural climate variation during the Holocene.

Conclusions

The Holocene–Anthropocene climate transition, even for a middle-strength future climate change scenario, appears to be of greater magnitude and different from that between the mH and the pre-industrial period. As a consequence, community- and biome-level changes due to of expected climate change may be different in the future from those observed during the mH.