Detailed forecasts of climate change show the three most common bamboo species in China’s northwestern forests that pandas rely on will be severely affected.
The researchers looked at plants in the Qinling Mountains, which are home to about 17 percent of the wild panda population.
Bamboo has an unusual reproductive cycle, for example the species studied only flower every 30 to 35 years, making them vulnerable to change.
“Understanding impacts of climate change is an important way for science to assist in making good decisions,” said study co-author Jianguo Liu at Michigan State University in a press release.
“Looking at the climate impact on the bamboo can help us prepare for the challenges that the panda will likely face in the future.”
The researchers used various factors, including historic data of rain and temperature ranges, to produce their models, which can help with planning to protect regions where bamboo has better survival chances, and areas that could act as corridors for pandas to leave afflicted habitat.
“We will need proactive actions to protect the current giant panda habitats,” concluded study co-author Mao-Ning Tuanmu at Yale University in the release. “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.”
The findings were published in Nature Climate Change on Nov. 11.
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