China’s endangered wild pandas may need new dinner reservations–and quickly, based on models that indicate climate change may kill off swaths of bamboo that pandas need to survive
In this week’s Nature Climate Change, an international journal, scientists from Michigan State University (MSU) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences provide comprehensive forecasts of how changing climate may affect the most common species of bamboo that carpet the forest floors of prime panda habitat in northwestern China. Even the most optimistic scenarios show that bamboo die-offs would effectively cause prime panda habitat to become inhospitable by the end of the 21st century.
The scientists studied possible scenarios of climate change in the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi Province. At the northern boundary of China’s panda distributional range, the Qinling Mountains are home to about 275 wild pandas, which account for about 17 percent of the remaining wild population. The Qinling pandas, which have been isolated because of thousands of years of human habitation around the mountain range, vary genetically from other giant pandas. The geographic isolation of these pandas makes them particularly valuable for conservation, but vulnerable to climate change. (more…)