A warming limit for the Mediterranean basin

Pollen cores from sediments provide rich detail on the history of vegetation and climate in the Mediterranean during the Holocene (the most recent ~10,000 years). Guiot and Cramer used this information as a baseline against which to compare predictions of future climate and vegetation under different climate-change scenarios. Vegetation and land-use systems observed in the Holocene records may persist under a 1.5°C warming above preindustrial temperature levels. A 2°C warming, however, is likely over the next century to produce ecosystems in the Mediterranean basin that have no analog in the past 10,000 years.
Science, this issue p. 465


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement of December 2015 aims to maintain the global average warming well below 2°C above the preindustrial level. In the Mediterranean basin, recent pollen-based reconstructions of climate and ecosystem variability over the past 10,000 years provide insights regarding the implications of warming thresholds for biodiversity and land-use potential. We compare scenarios of climate-driven future change in land ecosystems with reconstructed ecosystem dynamics during the past 10,000 years. Only a 1.5°C warming scenario permits ecosystems to remain within the Holocene variability. At or above 2°C of warming, climatic change will generate Mediterranean land ecosystem changes that are unmatched in the Holocene, a period characterized by recurring precipitation deficits rather than temperature anomalies.

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Supplementary Material


Materials and Methods
Table S1 and S2
References (2128)


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References and Notes

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Information & Authors


Published In

Volume 354 | Issue 6311
28 October 2016

Submission history

Received: 6 July 2016
Accepted: 21 September 2016
Published in print: 28 October 2016


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The authors are members of the Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers Pytheas Institute and the ECCOREV network. This research has been funded by Labex OT-Med (project ANR-11-LABEX-0061), the “Investissements d’Avenir” French government project of the French National Research Agency (ANR), AMidex (project 11-IDEX-0001-02), and the European Union FP7-ENVIRONMENT project OPERAs (grant 308393). We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modeling groups (table S2) for producing and making their model outputs available. For CMIP, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led the development of software infrastructure, in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. R. Suarez and S. Shi have extracted and preprocessed the model simulations. Holocene climate reconstructions are available at - |54b9bf34-57ae-45ea-b455-9f90351e538f. Future climate projections are available at



Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Collège de France, Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement de Géosciences de l’Environnement (CEREGE), Ecosystèmes Continentaux et Risques Environnementaux (ECCOREV), Aix-en-Provence, France.
Wolfgang Cramer
Mediterranean Institute for Biodiversity and Ecology (IMBE), Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon University, 13545 Aix-en-Provence, France.


Corresponding author. Email: [email protected]

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