A Middle East without nuts is like Belgium without chocolate: virtually impossible to imagine. But a recent report published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE (hat tip to Grist) shows that warm (and warming) countries that grow nuts and drupes such as dates and olives could see a major reduction in crop production over the next several decades. Greenhouse gas emissions are the culprit.
Rising temperatures are reducing the length of winter chill in warming countries, a period that is crucial to farming fruit and nut trees. Winter chill refers to the buffer zone that occurs between winter and spring.
Trees that stay dormant during winter months to protect themselves against frost need this time to wake up again, shake off the cold, and prepare for spring.
If this period is reduced or effectively canceled by climate change, then crop production will also decline.
Oman is among the countries that has already shown major losses in winter chill, which is expected to drop further still. Modeling shows that countries around the Mediterranean Sea could see losses of up to 40CP (chill portions), while Israel, and North African countries such as Morocco and Tunisia will be hardest hit.
Growing nuts and stone fruits in many countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East will no longer be economically unfeasible, although researchers note that northern regions could see an increase in winter chill.
Since we’re not about to arrest climate change any time soon, probably our best defense is to find more perky crops that don’t need so much time to “wake up.”
Climate change has the power to disrupt weather patterns and gut the kernel of deep-rooted cultures. Now that’s just nuts!
:: PLoS ONE
More on Crops and Climate Change in the Middle East:
image via DeusXFlorida