Australia’s grassland areas could lose as much as 40% more rainfall over the next 20 years because of climate change, according to a report.
The Australian National University’s report, published on Monday, found that Australia’s drylands would be “vulnerable” to drought if global warming continued.
“We believe that a combination of changing climate and changing vegetation patterns could result in drought in Australia over the coming decades,” said the study’s lead author, Andrew Dickson.
The drylands are found in the central and northern parts of the country, but they are particularly important for grazing cattle.
“Australia’s dryland landscapes provide important habitats for animals that rely on these dryland areas for food, and these ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change,” the authors said.
“The dryland ecosystems are currently experiencing severe climate change impacts, including higher temperatures, increasing drought and reduced rainfall, and loss of animal species.”
Climate change is the reason for Australia’s drought, the study said.
The authors estimated that between 2030 and 2040, Australia’s driest area could fall by about 6.6 million hectares (13.7 million acres), which is about 3.2 million hectares more than today’s dry area.
They said the change would be largely due to climate-related changes, including rising temperatures, warmer waters and changing patterns of vegetation.
The report also found that changes to vegetation and water quality would be the biggest threat to Australia’s wetland areas, particularly in the south and west.
“Dryland ecosystems depend on wetland environments for their productivity, diversity and biodiversity,” the report said.
“It is also the largest component of Australia’s ecosystem, accounting for more than two-thirds of its ecosystem-related carbon sinks.”