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Plausible rice yield losses under future climate warming


Rice is the staple food for more than 50% of the world's population13. Reliable prediction of changes in rice yield is thus central for maintaining global food security. This is an extraordinary challenge. Here, we compare the sensitivity of rice yield to temperature increase derived from field warming experiments and three modelling approaches: statistical models, local crop models and global gridded crop models. Field warming experiments produce a substantial rice yield loss under warming, with an average temperature sensitivity of −5.2 ± 1.4% K−1. Local crop models give a similar sensitivity (−6.3 ± 0.4% K−1), but statistical and global gridded crop models both suggest less negative impacts of warming on yields (−0.8 ± 0.3% and −2.4 ± 3.7% K−1, respectively). Using data from field warming experiments, we further propose a conditional probability approach to constrain the large range of global gridded crop model results for the future yield changes in response to warming by the end of the century (from −1.3% to −9.3% K−1). The constraint implies a more negative response to warming (−8.3 ± 1.4% K−1) and reduces the spread of the model ensemble by 33%. This yield reduction exceeds that estimated by the International Food Policy Research Institute assessment (−4.2 to −6.4% K−1) (ref. 4). Our study suggests that without CO2 fertilization, effective adaptation and genetic improvement, severe rice yield losses are plausible under intensive climate warming scenarios.

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Figure 1: Future climate change (2070–2099, RCP8.5) and its impact on global rice yield (in comparison to 1971–2000 baseline) from an ensemble of 17 GGCM–CM pairs without CO2 fertilization effects.
Figure 2: Constraint on the long-term sensitivity of rice yield to temperature change.
Figure 3: The estimates of sensitivity of rice yield to temperature change from four distinct approaches.


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We thank the Intersectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP) and the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) for providing crop model simulation results. We also thank S. Asseng for helpful comments. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41530528 and 41561134016), the 111 project (B14001) and the National Youth Top-notch Talent Support Program in China. The research of P.C., I.A.J. and J.P. was supported by the European Research Council Synergy grant ERC-2013-SYG-610028, IMBALANCE-P. C.M. acknowledges financial support from the MACMIT project (01LN1317A) funded through the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

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S. Piao designed the research, C.Z. performed the analysis and all authors contributed to the interpretation of the results and the writing of the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shilong Piao.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary References, Supplementary Figures 1-12, Supplementary Table 1, Appendix 1-3. (PDF 1428 kb)

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Zhao, C., Piao, S., Wang, X. et al. Plausible rice yield losses under future climate warming. Nature Plants 3, 16202 (2017).

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