Wine or Wildlife?

As the world warms, vineyards could move into wildlife habitat.

If you had to choose between wolves in the wild or white wine in your glass, which would win out? The hypothetical competition could become all too real as the planet continues to warm and grape-growing areas shift. Some renowned wine regions, including Bordeaux and Tuscany, will see suitable grape acreage shrink by up to 73 percent during the next 35 years, reports a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. At the same time, areas near Yellowstone National Park and in the Rocky Mountains will increasingly see temperatures (55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and annual rainfall (8 to 48 inches) that are optimal for vineyards. This could spell trouble for iconic mammals like grizzlies and pronghorn that use the land as a home base or migration corridor.

The same holds true for pandas in China and black bears in the Yukon. “Between agriculture and wildlife, it will be the wildlife that loses,” says Rebecca Shaw, coauthor and Environmental Defense Fund climate scientist. With the ranges of other crops expanding, too, says Shaw, now is the time for countries to work with landowners to create plans that conserve wildlife and habitat without hindering agriculture.

This story originally ran in the July-August 2013 issue as "Drinking Problem."