Climate Change May Halve Giant Panda’s Habitat by 2070

Jan 12th, 2015 | By | Category: Biodiversity, News

mg22530031.700-1_300GIANT pandas, prepare to move out. Shifting these creatures to distant reserves may be essential if they are to survive the likely impacts of climate change.

Pandas are well known for their pernickety bamboo diet and lacklustre sex lives. Wild populations have been reduced to a tiny gene pool and are under new pressure from the explosive growth in road-building in China. Taking these factors into account, Ming Xu of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and colleagues have modelled how pandas’ geographical range could be further affected by climate change.

They found that even the most conservative scenarios, which foresee an average of 1 °C warming globally by 2100, could result in habitat suitable for pandas more than halving by 2070 (Biological Conservation, doi.org/xz7). To make matters worse, panda populations could also become more fragmented. Xu’s analysis predicts that the average size of panda habitats would decrease by about 19 per cent. That means small groups, such as the 29 animals that live in the Daxiang mountains of south-west China, could become cut off from the rest of the population and face a greater risk of dying out.

On the upside, Xu predicts that some areas to the north of the pandas’ current mountainous homelands could become suitable. Planting bamboo there now could prime them for panda relocation in the future.

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