Climate-driven changes in understory bamboo distribution may leave giant pandas with insufficient food in a remote region of China, which constitutes about a quarter of their available habitat. These findings, published online this week in Nature Climate Change, indicate that altered climate conditions in the region may become a significant threat to giant panda conservation.
The important role of understory plants - which grow below the canopy - in forest ecosystems is often neglected in climate impact studies. Jianguo Liu and co-workers assess the impacts of climate change on the three dominant bamboo species occurring in the Qinling Mountains in China; plants that comprise almost the entire diet of the panda population in the region.
As well as warning of challenges ahead for giant pandas, these results underscore the general importance of incorporating interactions between species into climate change impact assessments.