Climate change is a major global threat, which will significantly impact many sectors of society. Agriculture is one of the economic sectors that will likely be hit hardest by climate change, since it directly depends on climatic factors such as temperature, sunlight, and precipitation. In southern and warmer latitudes such as the Mediterranean region, the potential negative impacts on crop yields are expected to significantly outweigh the potential positive impacts. However, research regarding climate change impacts in the Mediterranean on the agricultural sectors has so far been limited to general conclusions at national level, without focusing on the regional and local climate changes and their impacts on irrigation water availability, crop growth, and soil quality. Even less progress has been made in the field of adaptation, since no adaptation plans have been put in place yet to identify necessary measures to be integrated into national and regional policies. Thus, there is a need for a comprehensive enrichment of the knowledge base in the field of climate change impact and vulnerability assessment for agriculture, including for Mediterranean islands, to enable well-informed decision-making and the implementation of concrete adaptation plans.
The LIFE ADAPT2CLIMA project aimed to facilitate the development of adaptation strategies for agriculture by deploying and demonstrating an innovative decision support tool. The ADAPT2CLIMA tool will make it possible to simulate the impacts of climate change on crop production and the effectiveness of selected adaptation options in decreasing vulnerability to climate change of three Mediterranean islands, namely Crete (Greece), Sicily (Italy), and Cyprus. The islands were selected for two reasons: firstly, they figure among the most important cultivation areas at national level. Secondly, they exhibit similarities in terms of location (climate), size, climate change threats faced (coastal agriculture, own water resources), agricultural practices, and policy relevance.
The LIFE ADAPT2CLIMA project developed a decision support system (DSS), the ADAPT2CLIMA tool, for demonstrating the impact of climate change on agriculture, in a way that is easy for non-experts to understand. The tool was used, in consultation with policymakers and stakeholders, in the development of the first sectoral strategies for adaptation of agriculture to climate change in Sicily, Crete and Cyprus. Firstly, the project partners explored climate change impacts on the agricultural sectors of each island to 2060, based on two greenhouse gas emission scenarios. It was found that for the three islands, summer crops (olives, grapes and tomatoes in open-field conditions) are more negatively impacted than winter crops, as they grow during peak periods of drought and heat stress. For example, for grapes in Crete and Sicily yield decreases of 11% and 13%, respectively, were predicted; while olive yields were reduced by 5-6% in Crete and Cyprus. Although winter crops overall were less impacted, in some cases, such as barley in Cyprus (12% yield reduction), significant impacts were estimated. Following these estimated reductions in yield, the project team conducted a total impact assessment taking into account socio-economic aspects for each region. This enables farmers and government authorities to target action to increase the resilience of the agricultural sector, for which the project proposed a clear set of adaptation measures to reduce the intensity of impacts.
These climate adaptation measures were based on an extensive literature review by the project partners. They were compiled into a questionnaire that was distributed to selected experts and stakeholders from Cyprus, Greece and Italy. In this way, measures were evaluated in terms of their effectiveness, contribution to climate change adaptation, and economic viability. The adaptation measures were then ranked using a multi-criteria analysis. The ADAPT2CLIMA tool developed by the project showed how each measure could improve the climate change scenario impacts, and facilitated the formulation of the Climate ChangeAdaptation Strategies of Agriculture for the three pilot islands. The highest-ranking climate adaptation measures applicable to all crops included: efficient irrigation systems; development/improvement of early warning systems; improvement of agricultural advisory and external services; better on-farm water harvesting; improved local institutional support; drought/heat resistant/tolerant crop varieties; and a database with long-term monitoring data for crop pests and diseases.
Three adaptation strategies of agriculture to climate change were developed as a first policy outcome of ADAPT2CLIMA: a national strategy in Cyprus with some of its adaptation measures incorporated in the new Rural Development Programme and Climate Adaptation Action Plan; Guidelines for the regional adaptation strategy of agriculture to climate change impacts in Sicily; and the Regional Adaptation Action Plan in Crete. The project is in line with the EU climate change policy framework, particularly concerning adaptation strategy and CAP reform.
ADAPT2CLIMA has an interactive map that enables users to explore climate change projections (to see impacts in a specific area for two emission scenarios over time); vulnerability assessment (for different crop type); and adaptation assessment (how different adaptation options address crop impact). The ADAPT2CLIMA DSS has a scalable architecture that can be easily replicated at the national level for Greece and Italy (at an estimated cost of around 80 000 per region). The tool is available on the project website (https://tool.adapt2clima.eu/en/home/).
The projects socio-economic assessment showed that, among other benefits, it increased the level of social awareness with respect to climate change and its impact on agriculture; improved farmers capacity for coping with climate change impacts; increased the sustainability of rural communities; and created jobs (3.25 full time equivalents).
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).