Climate-change impacts on understorey bamboo species and giant pandas in China’s Qinling Mountains

Journal name:
Nature Climate Change
Volume:
3,
Pages:
249–253
Year published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/nclimate1727
Received
Accepted
Published online
Corrected online

Climate change is threatening global ecosystems through its impact on the survival of individual species and their ecological functions1, 2. Despite the important role of understorey plants in forest ecosystems3, 4, 5, climate impact assessments on understorey plants and their role in supporting wildlife habitat are scarce in the literature. Here we assess climate-change impacts on understorey bamboo species with an emphasis on their ecological function as a food resource for endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). An ensemble of bamboo distribution projections associated with multiple climate-change projections and bamboo dispersal scenarios indicates a substantial reduction in the distributional ranges of three dominant bamboo species in the Qinling Mountains, China during the twenty-first century. As these three species comprise almost the entire diet of the panda population in the region, the projected changes in bamboo distribution suggest a potential shortage of food for this population, unless alternative food sources become available. Although the projections were developed under unavoidable simplifying assumptions and uncertainties, they indicate potential challenges for panda conservation and underscore the importance of incorporating interspecific interactions into climate-change impact assessments and associated conservation planning.

At a glance

Figures

  1. Location and topography of the study area, and the baseline CSAs for the three bamboo species studied.
    Figure 1: Location and topography of the study area, and the baseline CSAs for the three bamboo species studied.

    a, The study area includes the Qinling Mountains and surrounding areas (5°×5°). b, The CSAs for the Qinling arrow, dragon-head and wooden bamboos were obtained from the bioclimatic models under the baseline climate, and blue, red and green colours indicate the CSAs for the three species, respectively. The mixtures of the three colours indicate overlaps of the CSAs for individual species. The brightness of the colours shows the number of bioclimatic models (among the ten models with different presence data partitions) predicting pixels as suitable for each species, with brighter colours indicating a larger number of models.

  2. Projected future distributions of CSAs in 2070-2099 for the three bamboo species studied under the climate projections from four IPCC TAR GCMs (Supplementary Table S1).
    Figure 2: Projected future distributions of CSAs in 2070–2099 for the three bamboo species studied under the climate projections from four IPCC TAR GCMs (Supplementary Table S1).

    ah, The distributions were projected using bioclimatic models under the SRES A2 (ad) and B2 (eh) greenhouse-gas emissions scenarios. Blue, red and green colours indicate the CSAs for the Qinling arrow, dragon-head and wooden bamboos, respectively. See the legend of Fig. 1 for detailed information on the colour representation. For comparison, the outline of the CSAs for the baseline climate for all three species is shown in white. CCSR/NIES: coupled model from the Center for Climate System Research and the National Institute for Environmental Studies.

  3. Temporal dynamics of the projected changes in the area of giant panda habitat over the twenty-first century.
    Figure 3: Temporal dynamics of the projected changes in the area of giant panda habitat over the twenty-first century.

    The changes (%) are relative to the area of panda habitat (CSAs for the three bamboo species studied combined) under the baseline climate. ad, Projections of panda habitat were obtained from the bioclimatic models for the three bamboo species under the unlimited- (a,c) and no- (b,d) bamboo-dispersal scenarios using multiple future climate projections for three time slices from four IPCC TAR GCMs (Supplementary Table S1), and under the SRES A2 (a,b) and B2 (c,d) greenhouse-gas emissions scenarios. Ten bioclimatic models were built for each bamboo species. The points indicate the median value and the vertical bars indicate the range of projected values obtained from the combinations of those models (that is, ten bioclimatic models for the Qinling arrow bamboo ×10 for the dragon-head bamboo × 10 for the wooden bamboo, thus 1,000 combinations).

  4. GCM-related uncertainty of projected changes in giant panda habitat area for the time slice of 2040-2069 under the SRES A2 greenhouse-gas emissions scenario.
    Figure 4: GCM-related uncertainty of projected changes in giant panda habitat area for the time slice of 2040–2069 under the SRES A2 greenhouse-gas emissions scenario.

    The percentage changes are relative to the area of panda habitat (CSAs for the three bamboo species studied combined) under the baseline climate. a,b, The projections were obtained from bioclimatic models for the three bamboo species under the unlimited- (a) and no- (b) bamboo-dispersal scenarios and under multiple future climate projections from four IPCC TAR and 15 AR4 GCMs (Supplementary Table S1). Ten bioclimatic models were built for each bamboo species. Each boxplot shows the maximum, 75th percentile, median, 25th percentile and minimum of the projected values obtained from the combinations of those models. BCCR-BCM: Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research-Bergen Climate Model; CNRM: Centre National de Recherches Meteorologiques; ECHO-G: coupled ECHAM4 atmosphere and HOPE ocean model; FGOALS: Flexible Global Ocean-Atmosphere-Land System model; GFDL: Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; GISS-AOM: Goddard Institute for Space Studies- Atmosphere–Ocean Model; hires: high resolution; IPSL: Institut Pierre Simon Laplace; MIROC: The Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate; medres: median resolution; MIR-CGCM: Meteorological Research Institute-Coupled Atmosphere–Ocean General Circulation Model; PCM: Parallel Climate Model.

Change history

Corrected online 15 November 2012
In the version of this Letter originally published online, in the penultimate sentence of the abstract it should have read 'the projected changes in bamboo distribution suggest a potential shortage of food for this population'. This error has now been corrected in all versions of the Letter.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, 1405 S. Harrison Road, Suite 115 Manly Miles Building, East Lansing, Michigan 48823, USA

    • Mao-Ning Tuanmu,
    • Andrés Viña,
    • Yu Li &
    • Jianguo Liu
  2. Department of Geography, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA

    • Julie A. Winkler
  3. State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China

    • Weihua Xu &
    • Zhiyun Ouyang
  4. Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA

    • Mao-Ning Tuanmu

Contributions

M-N.T., A.V., J.A.W and J.L. conceived the ideas and designed the analyses; M-N.T., A.V., Y.L., W.X. and Z.O. collected the data; M-N.T. built the models and performed the data analyses; all authors wrote the paper.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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