Vineyards Could Shrink 73 Percent by 2050

Winemaking in the Napa Valley is going to become more difficult over the next few decades, as climate change pushes temperatures up. A new study suggests the search for new land hospitable to grapes might end up threatening wilderness areas. 

Wine grapes are picky. Some varietals like cool coastal weather, while others like it drier and hot.  Lee Hannah, a senior scientist with Conservation International, said inland wineries, such as those in Napa, are going to run into trouble.

"Vineyards will be challenged to find solutions to increasing heat and, according to the global climate models, decreasing rainfall," said Hannah, who co-authored the global study.

The study concludes that 73 percent of all land currently suitable for grape-growing will shrivel up by 2050.  That means the wine industry is going to start using more water. Some wineries may move to new areas, such as Montana and British Columbia.

"Those are areas that can be important for grizzlies and moose and wolves and a whole range of wildlife," Hannah said.

Central China, home to the giant panda, also could become suitable for vineyards, according to the study. Setting up wildlife corridors now is one way to protect wildlife as wineries put down new roots, said  co-author Rebecca Shaw of the Environmental Defense Fund.

"If ... the conservation community works together with agriculture, there are proactive solutions that we can implement that will allow us to feed the planet and also provide a home for wildlife and biodiversity in the future," Shaw said. "And we really need to get started on that."

The study concludes this conflict with wildlife will play out with many crops, including rice and coffee. The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

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