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Research Project: Sustainable Small Farm and Organic Production Systems for Livestock and Agroforestry

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: A study of the impacts of climate change scenarios on the plant hardiness zones of Albania

Author
item TEQJA, ZYDI - Agricultural University Of Tirana, Albania
item LIBOHOVA, ZAMIR - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, USDA)
item KOPALI, ALBERT - Agricultural University Of Tirana, Albania
item Owens, Phillip

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/3/2017
Publication Date: 1/3/2017
Citation: Teqja, Z., Libohova, Z., Kopali, A., Owens, P.R. 2017. A study of the impacts of climate change scenarios on the plant hardiness zones of Albania. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 56:615-631.

Interpretive Summary: We studied the climate impact on the changing geography of cold-season extreme temperatures and its implications for plant hardiness zones in Albania by comparing historical climatic data from 1995-2000 with future climate scenarios based on future climate predictions from models. The measured mean temperature minimum and the absolute temperature minimum from climate stations were highly correlated, with a mean difference of -7.3 degrees C. The mean temperature differences did not show tremndous regional deviation from the current regional differences; however, the modeled temperature differences were different from the current temperature. This research allowed for the assessment of the influence of future climate scenarios on the distribution of plant hardiness zones. The research indicated that the modeled climate scenarios affected the distribution and extent of plant hardiness zones. The disappearance of the most severe plant hardiness zones and the appearance of new, warmer plant hardiness zones under the predicted climate scenarios reflect rising temperatures during the cold season. Plant hardiness zones related to climate change present opportunities for growing new horticultural crops; however, more studies are needed to assess the interactions between climate change and management practices for these new species, especially at local levels.

Technical Abstract: Maps of plant hardiness zones are useful tools for determining the extreme limits for the survival of plants. Exploration of projected climate change effects on hardiness zones can help identify areas most affected by climate change. Such studies are important in areas with high risks related to climate change, such as the Mediterranean region. The objectives of this study were to: (i) map plant hardiness zones for Albania, and (ii) assess the projected effects of climate scenarios on the distribution of hardiness zones. Hardiness zones were affected by IPPC5 climate scenarios. The most extreme hardiness zone (6a) disappeared while a new, warmer zone (10b) appeared, reflecting rising temperature trends during the cold season. The shifts in spatial distribution of hardiness zones may represent opportunities for introducing new species to Albanian agriculture and forestry; however, the introduction of new species would require further studies on the variability of plant hardiness zones at local scales.