Scientists are worried that global rice harvests will be seriously impacted by climate change.
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Projections of global rice yields account for climate change. They do not, however, consider the coupled stresses of impending climate change and arsenic in paddy soils, as a new study by an international team of researchers shows.

Global warming could lead to global rice yields that are significantly lower than previously assumed. Rice could also contain significantly more of the toxic metalloid arsenic than current EU limits permit. This is the conclusion of an international team of researchers from the universities of Stanford USA, Tübingen Germany and Bayreuth Germany, headed by Dr Eva Marie Muehe, a researcher at Stanford and Tübingen universities. Based on the team’s scenarios, rice production could decline by up to 40 per cent by the end of this century. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Rice is the most important staple foodstuff for over half the world’s population. Globally, it supplies most daily calories per capita. There has long been concern that climate change could reduce rice yields by up to 15 per cent through rising temperatures, increasing atmospheric CO2 content and water shortages. The new study looks at the combination of climate data and rising soil contamination, and calculated far more dramatic decreases in yields  - at a time of rapid growth in global population and resulting demand for food.

Interactions further complicate the problems

In Asia, which is responsible for 97 per cent of rice production, the toxic metalloid arsenic is naturally and extensively present in groundwater.

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