Climate Change Destroys Bamboo Forests, Threatens Global Panda Population

Both the pandas' natural habitats and the pandas themselves face extinction

By on November 12th, 2012 08:35 GMT

Most people have a soft spot for panda bears, so it need not come as such a big surprise that the news of their becoming extinct as a result of climate change has caused quite a media stir.

Thus, this week's issue of the international journal Nature Climate Change witnessed the publication of a new study stating that, as a result of global warming, several of the most common types of bamboos might soon either fall off the biodiversity map altogether, or simply start growing on ever smaller patches of land.

Given the fact that panda bears rely on these bamboo species as an important source of nutrients, it comes only natural that their being affected by climate change will ultimately impact on the global panda population.

According to a team of specialists working with the Michigan State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it is quite likely that, by the end of the 21st century, the pandas' natural habitats in northwestern China will become inhospitable.

“Understanding impacts of climate change is an important way for science to assist in making good decisions. Looking at the climate impact on the bamboo can help us prepare for the challenges that the panda will likely face in the future,” explains Jianguo Liu, one of the co-authors of this new study.

For the time being, researchers are also worried about how bamboo forest die-offs will impact on several other endangered species such as the ploughshare tortoise and the purple-winged ground-dove, which face similar risks despite their not drawing as much media attention as panda bears do.

However, there is hope that, thanks to breeding programs and ongoing conservation projects, the global panda population might overcome this new threat, Science Daily explains. “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,” specialist Mao-Ning Tuanmu says.

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