Climate Change And Giant Pandas
Climate change can impact different species in profound ways. One of the most important effects of climate change is that it can force species to expand or change their natural ranges to adapt to shifting temperature trends. The phenomenon has already resulted in dislocated species even though advocates try to help endangered species through conservation efforts and protecting certain areas. Still, researchers in this paper note, “shifting geographic ranges are likely to have profound consequences for the effectiveness of the protected area networks as species shift their ranges outside a site’s boundaries in response to their individual climatic tolerances.” That said, it’s not always clear what kind of impact a shifting climate has on conservation.
In this instance, researchers examined the status of the giant panda in the Min mountains of Sichuan, China (also known as the Min Shan) as a case study. Thanks to an “extensive protected area network,” the situation for giant pandas in this region “provides a unique opportunity to ask: how the effectiveness of protected area networks will change in promoting the species’ persistence as the climate warms?” After compiling a database of information about the giant panda in the Min Shan, analyzing it and modelling it out to future predictions, the researchers found that “giant pandas would experience both pole-ward and elevation shifts in their ranges.”
To be more specific, “from 2011 to 2100, climate change would drive 67% of the panda range upward on average 358(±64)m or northward by 563(±131)m in the Min Shan.” The authors of this study note that giant panda ranges would actually contract rather than expand; moreover, in their scenario, the panda habitat would “greatly fragment.” China has been working to protect pandas for decades, but climate change may lead to more habitat loss and fragmentation that may render those efforts moot. For wild animal advocates, the study shows that protecting entire species requires having networks of protected areas. But it also requires a dynamic approach that considers climate change because protected areas alone are not enough.