Climate change to negatively impact on Cape wine production

Submitted by: Amanda Botes, Friday, April 12, 2013

The Cape Region is predicted to experience a 55% decline in land area that is currently suitable for wine grape growing by 2050. This is according to a paper on the impact of climate change on wine production and biodiversity published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal. The paper, written by researchers led by Conservation International, maps the current areas around the world that are suitable for wine grape growing that will be lost by 2050, the areas that will remain suitable in 2050, and new areas that will become suitable by 2050.  

The paper notes that with the increase in global temperatures, areas closer to the north and south poles will become more suitable for wine grape growing. There is little room for expansion to the south in Africa and South America, but there is space for expansion in North America and Europe. Furthermore, areas with higher altitudes and elevations will become increasingly suitable for vineyards.

This redistribution in wine production will have substantial economic and conservation consequences. Some of the more traditional wine production regions like the Cape Region will stand to lose market share from new regions growing grapes for wine, especially those that are closer to the areas where demand is high. On the conservation front, pressure will be placed on natural vegetation in the new areas that become suitable for wine production and biodiversity will be negatively impacted. Species that especially require large areas to exist will be at risk as their habitat will be threatened. Areas in North America, Europe and China will be under threat.

In order to keep up production in less suitable areas like the Cape, the Paper predicts that pressure will be placed on water resources as more water will be needed for irrigation and to cool the grapes down, which may impact negatively on freshwater ecosystems.

In addition to wine, climate change is predicted to impact on the distribution of a variety of crops which may have substantial economic and conservation implications for conservation.

To keep updated with sustainability news subscribe to the fortnightly Urban Earth Newsletter.

Amanda Botes