Mao-Ning Tuanmu, who recently finished his PhD studies at CSIS, and colleagues constructed unique models, using field data on bamboo locality, multiple climate projections and historic data of precipitation and temperature ranges and greenhouse gas emission scenarios to evaluate how three dominant bamboo species would fare in the Qinling Mountains of China.
Not many scientists to date have studied understory bamboo, Tuanmu said. But evidence found in fossil and pollen records does indicate that over time bamboo distribution has followed the benefits and devastation of climate change.
Pandas' fate will be at the hands of not only nature, but also humans. If, as the study's models predict, large swaths of bamboo become unavailable, human development prevents pandas from a clear, accessible path to the next meal source.
"The giant panda population also is threatened by other human disturbances, Tuanmu said. "Climate change is only one challenge for the giant pandas. But on the other hand, the giant panda is a special species. People put a lot of conservation resources in to them compared to other species. We want to provide data to guide that wisely."
The models can point the way for proactive planning to protect areas that have a better climatic chance of providing adequate food sources, or begin creating natural "bridges" to allow pandas an escape hatch from bamboo famine.
"We will need proactive actions to protect the current giant panda habitats," Tuanmu said. "We need time to look at areas that might become panda habitat in the future, and to think now about maintaining connectivity of areas of good panda habitat and habitat for other species. What will be needed is speed."
|Contact: Sue Nichols|
Michigan State University