, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 161–178 | Cite as

Global warming: causes and impacts on agroecosystems productivity and food security with emphasis on cassava comparative advantage in the tropics/subtropics

  • M. A. El-Sharkawy


Earth’s climate has experienced notable changes during the past 50–70 years when global surface temperature has risen by 0.8°C during the 20th century. This was a consequence of the rise in the concentration of biogenic gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone) in the atmosphere that contribute, along with water vapor, to the so-called ‘greenhouse effect’. Most of the emissions of greenhouse gases have been, and still are, the product of human activities, namely, the excessive use of fossil energy, deforestations in the humid tropics with associated poor land use-management, and wide-scale degradation of soils under crop cultivation and animal/pasture ecosystems. General Circulation Models predict that atmospheric CO2 concentration will probably reach 700 μmol(CO2) mol−1. This can result in rise of Earth’s temperature from 1.5 to over 5°C by the end of this century. This may instigate 0.60–1.0 m rise in sea level, with impacts on coastal lowlands across continents. Crop modeling predicts significant changes in agricultural ecosystems. The mid- and high-latitude regions might reap the benefits of warming and CO2 fertilization effects via increasing total production and yield of C3 plants coupled with greater water-use efficiencies. The tropical/subtropical regions will probably suffer the worst impacts of global climate changes. These impacts include wide-scale socioeconomic changes, such as degradation and losses of natural resources, low agricultural production, and lower crop yields, increased risks of hunger, and above all waves of human migration and dislocation. Due to inherent cassava tolerance to heat, water stress, and poor soils, this crop is highly adaptable to warming climate. Such a trait should enhance its role in food security in the tropics and subtropics.

Additional key words

agriculture animal husbandry carbon dioxide climate change crop forest greenhouse gas modeling photosynthesis soil temperature water stress wild Manihot species yield 



intercellular CO2 concentration


CO2 concentration




Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment


harvest index


stomatal conductance


International Benchmark Sites Network for Agrotechnology Transfer


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


leaf area index


phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase


photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency


leaf net photosynthetic rate


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Copyright information

© The Institute of Experimental Botany 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)Cali-PalmiraColombia

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