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Posted Mon Nov 29 2010: from Boston Globe:
Sudden-drought scenario
But according to recent research on the historical ecology of the Andes Mountains, conducted in part by an assistant professor at Westfield State University, those steady changes could reach a tipping point that would, in some cases, flip local ecosystems on their heads. The scientists examined fossilized pollen in Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia, the world's highest-elevation great lake. That, they said, allowed them to look about 370,000 years back in time. They found that in two periods of past warming, the lake shrank by as much as 85 percent, and the surrounding grassland ecosystem was turned into a desert. Based on their work, the group then projected that if temperatures were to rise between 3 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit, parts of high-elevation Bolivia and Peru would become desert-like as early as 2040. Such a change could be disastrous for the water supply for Bolivia's capital city, La Paz, and for farming.... Scientists have assumed such tipping points would take place, but the study allowed researchers to do something new: project the future.... "The implications would be profound for some 2 million people," said Paul Filmer, a foundation program director.
[Read more stories about: drought, tipping point, global warming]

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