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Climate Change Is Killing Off Pandas’ Food

Climate Change Is Killing Off Pandas’ Food

Giant pandas are often shown chomping away on bamboo stalks and leaves, but such iconic images could become, like those of the long-gone dodo, a relic of the past. Even as conservationists work to save the giant panda through breeding programs, other changes in the world further threaten their existence. Giant pandas eat only bamboo and, based on computer models, scientists predict that global warming could drastically affect the most common species of bamboo in the “prime panda habitat,” the forests of northwestern China.

About 17 percent of the world’s remaining wild panda population — some 275 animals total — live in the forests in the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi Province. As noted in Science Daily, these wild pandas vary genetically from other giant pandas as they are geographically isolated. But while this has had advantages for their survival, the close ties of the pandas to their habitat and its food supply is a growing concern as global warming changes the ecosystem.

With temperatures rising, bamboo is predicted to disappear in such great amounts — 80 to 100 percent — that the pandas’ Qinling Mountains habitat is expected to become inhospitable for them in the 21st century. Bamboo only flowers and reproduces every 30 to 35 years, a life cycle severely limiting its adapting to climate change.

A die-off will have other serious implications for the forest ecosystem. Other endangered species including the ploughshare tortoise and purple-winged ground-dove also rely on bamboo for food and shelter and their fate hangs as much in the balance as the giant panda’s.

Due to human development, pandas do not have a “clear, accessible path to the next meal source” and it is unclear what alternative food sources might become available. Pandas will only have a chance if bamboo can “move to new habitats at higher elevations,” with cooler temperatures (that is, with the same temperatures as current bamboo habitats). But this would also mean that pandas would have to be relocated from the nature reserves where many of those who live in the wild now reside. The climate change models predict that temperatures will rise on these reserves.

As Jianguo Liu, a sustainability scientist at Michigan State University, emphasizes to MSNBC, breeding pandas in zoos and other such human environments is not a long-term solution. The genetic diversity of the animals is lessened in these environments.

As exciting it is to hear about panda babies born in zoos around the world, their survival in the wild requires even more extensive efforts not simply to save their habitat, but their food supply. Is the clock running out for the giant panda?

 

Related Care2 Coverage

Did Humans Once Eat Pandas?

Panda Birth Caught on Film (Video)

China Reveals Aggressive Plan to Protect Biodiversity

 

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84 comments

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4:03AM PDT on May 14, 2013

That's terrible! We need to do something to help them.

10:19AM PST on Dec 10, 2012

Not surprising, unfortunately. I hope for the best but expecting the worst for all our futures.

12:22PM PST on Dec 7, 2012

well China is one of the main nations contributing to the pollution in the world It should make an effort now to do what it can to help global warming and set an example The USA also should do more Most large cities in the world now are full of neon lights and full of cars Both use fuel and energy Until something significant is done man will continue destroying the planet and ultimately himself but if he is not the one suffering the storms,the droughts,the floods,tsunamis etc then he turns a blind eye and it wont change Time everyone woke up

10:52AM PST on Dec 3, 2012

very sad news, but thanks for sharing

1:46PM PST on Nov 20, 2012

So sad!

3:07PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

If 1 person exchanges eating meat / animal products for a vegan diet, they'll reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 tons per year.
If every American dropped one serving of chicken per week from their diet, it would save the same amount of CO2 emissions as taking 500,000 cars off the road. Chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows are collectively the largest producer of methane in the U.S.
Methane is 20x more powerful at trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
The meat, egg, and dairy industries produce 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.
Nitrous Oxide is 300x more powerful at trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere than carbon dioxide. 1 calorie from animal protein requires 11x as much fossil fuel as 1 calorie of plant protein.
The diets of meat eaters create 7x the greenhouse emissions as the diet of vegans.
Nearly half of all water used in the U.S. goes to raising animals for human food.
It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat.
1 pound of wheat takes 25 gallons.
You'd save more water by not eating one lb of meat than you would by not taking a shower for 6 months.
A vegan diet requires 300 gallons of water per day vs. meat-eating diet which requires 4,000 gallons per day.
Animals raised for food create 89,000 lbs of excrement per second, none of which benefits from the waste-treatment facilities human excrement does.
Chicken, Hog, and Cattle excrement has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states.
Raising anima

1:38PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

Very disturbing.

1:16PM PST on Nov 19, 2012

very sad...and I have to agree...we are destroying our world!!! :(

11:22AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

What we are doing to our planet, our fellow creatures, and ultimately ourselves, is all there before us in nature, but blinded by our greed and our selfish nature we refuse to acknowledge it or even see it in our mad onward rush of wanting and demanding more and more. If we all slowed down a little, took less of what we don't really need to live and gave just a little bit more of what we have to spare, we could start to repair this damaged world of ours and be a lot more happier and fulfilled as a result.

5:55AM PST on Nov 19, 2012

I give that world a maximum of about 100 years.After that the humans are almost all gone by superstorms,earthquakes and vulcanos eruptions,if not from a super vulcano.
The animals-and I'm pretty sure-are all in gods home (the heaven) and save.

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