Climate change threatens olive oil production in the Levant

David Kaniewski, Nick Marriner, Christophe Morhange, Carla Khater, Jean Frédéric Terral, Guillaume Besnard, Thierry Otto, Frédéric Luce, Quentin Couillebault, Labrini Tsitsou, Majid Pourkerman, Rachid Cheddadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The olive tree (Olea europaea L.) is one of the species best adapted to a Mediterranean-type climate1–8. Nonetheless, the Mediterranean Basin is deemed to be a climate change ‘hotspot’ by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change9,10 because future model projections suggest considerable warming and drying11,12. Within this context, new environmental challenges will arise in the coming decades, which will both weaken and threaten olive-growing areas, leading to a loss of productivity and changes in fruit and oil quality13–15. Olive growing, a core of the Mediterranean economy, might soon be under stress. To probe the link between climate and olive trees, we here report 5,400 years of olive tree dynamics from the ancient city of Tyre, Lebanon. We show that optimal fruiting scales closely with temperature. Present-day and palaeo data define an optimal annual average temperature of 16.9 ± 0.3 °C for olive flowering that has existed at least since the Neolithic period. According to our projections, during the second half of the twenty-first century, temperature increases in Lebanon will have detrimental consequences on olive tree growth and olive oil production, especially in the country’s southern regions, which will become too hot for optimal flowering and fruiting. These data provide a template to understand present and future thresholds of olive production under climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalNature Plants
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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