One of the most important resources society depends upon is agriculture. With so much irrefutable evidence demonstrating that global warming is indeed occurring and that ecosystems worldwide are already feeling the effects and having to adapt, the protection of agricultural resources is critical. Without the successful adaptation of agriculture and livestock to the long-term changes of climate due to global warming, future adaptation for anything would be difficult. Agricultural systems are influenced by several environmental factors—especially weather and climate. Agriculture and livestock depend on the health and well-being of soil conditions such as the presence and quality of organic matter and availability of adequate moisture. If the progression of global warming upsets the balance of any of these biophysical properties (precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, and organic matter), agriculture and livestock will be negatively affected.
Currently, much of the work done to understand global warming and determining how specific areas may change is through computer modeling. Modeling climate change is very complicated, however. Precipitation patterns and cloud formation and movement are currently very difficult to model because clouds are small-scale features that move and change rapidly; modeling is most successful on the mechanisms of climate that occupy larger scales and move slower, such as massive air masses like the global circulation patterns of jet streams, westerlies, and trade winds.
Biophysical factors such as soil conditions and type and amount of organic matter help determine soil moisture and crop conditions. Climate change also reflects these ranges of conditions, which in turn affects crop production. Because of this, extensive research is conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on developing new varieties of crops that are geared toward reducing their vulnerability to climatic stress, as well as expanding the range of geographic, topographic, and climatic conditions in which they can be successfully grown and harvested.
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