Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Climate change could turn much of Northwest into wine country, but that could threaten wildlife

A warmer climate could turn some rural areas in the northwestern U.S. into wine meccas by 2050, but converting those regions into wine country could have a negative impact on wildlife, according to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences.

"California’s wine-growing regions could lose more than 50 percent of their suitable territory, while the Canadian border country of Montana, Washington and Idaho could see a 200 percent boost in vineyard potential," Rob Chaney reports for The Missoulian in Missoula, Mont. Warmer temperatures could force wine growers to cooler areas with higher elevations. California currently accounts for about 90 percent of the nation's total wine production, NBC News reports.

The problem, the study finds, is that the prime places to grow grapes to produce wine are already inhabited by wildlife such as the gray wolf, pronghorn antelope and grizzly bears, Will Oremus reports for Slate. The most promising area is north of Yellowstone National Park, which is the "very type of wildlife corridor that scientists say may be needed to allow animals like grizzly bears to respond to climate change themselves," Oremus writes.

Lee Hannah, lead author of the study, said wine growers typically haven't had to look at the wildlife habitat impacts of vineyards, "but with climate change, that's going to become more prevalent. Planning that in conjunction with wildlife concerns takes collective action,” Brian Handwerk reports for National Geographic.

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