Climate change threatens central Tunisian nut orchards


Temperate deciduous trees can only be productive where winters are cold enough to meet their chilling needs. In the Mediterranean region, chill has traditionally been sufficient for many species, but this may change as temperatures increase. We explored the region’s present and future suitability for temperate trees by quantifying chill for the Sfax region in central Tunisia, one of the warmest regions where temperate nuts are commercially grown. We assessed climatic risk by calculating historic chill (since 1973) and using a weather generator calibrated with local weather data (1973–2015) to produce 101 years of chill estimates (computed with the Dynamic Model) and 3 past and 72 future scenarios (for 2041–2070 and 2071–2100, using two representative concentration pathways: RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). For almonds and pistachios, we compared available chill during the chilling period with the species’ estimated chilling requirements, and we computed the date by which sufficient chill was expected to have accumulated. Our findings indicated severe chill losses for all future scenarios. For all species, the current chill period is no longer expected to be sufficient for meeting chilling requirements in the future. Chill needs may still be fulfilled later in the year, especially for low-chill almonds, but this would result in delayed phenology, with possible adverse effects on productivity. Temperate nut production is thus unlikely to remain viable at this site, highlighting an urgent need to identify locally appropriate adaptation options. This challenge is likely shared by other warm production regions of temperate fruits and nuts around the world.

International Journal of Biometeorology, (62), 12,