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Pandas Threatened by Climate Change

written by: Rose Kivi•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 8/15/2009

A new study reveals that the Giant Panda may face future food shortages due to global warming. How can climate change effect the Great Panda's main food source?

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    A study conducted by the University of York and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh with Sichuan University and the Kuming Institute of Botany revealed the effect that climate change could have on bamboo growth. "The researchers discovered that while some types of bamboo reduced in range due to global warming, others actually increased." [University of York] Further research is being conducted in an attempt to determine which species of bamboo will thrive in higher temperatures caused by global warming.

    The bamboo study raises serious concerns regarding the survival of the Giant Panda. The Giant Panda relies on bamboo to fill ninety-nine percent of their diet. A single panda can eat twenty-six to eighty-three pounds of bamboo a day. There are an estimated 1,600 Giant Pandas remaining in the wild. It takes approximately 41,600 to 132,800 pounds of bamboo a day to feed all 1,600 pandas.

    The only remaining wild pandas live in a small area of China. Approximately 980 of the 1,600 wild pandas are living in protected reserves. If bamboo in reserves fails to thrive, the pandas will be forced to leave the protected reserves in search of food. Some pandas inside and outside of reserves may not be able to travel to where new sources of bamboo are growing. Habitat destruction combined with human industrialization has isolated some groups of pandas, making travel difficult if not impossible.

    Giant Pandas are finicky eaters and get used to a diet of the particular species of bamboo that they have become accustomed to eating. While pandas may be finicky, they can eat other species of bamboo if necessity forces them to. The real concern is will sufficient amounts of bamboo grow in accessible areas to pandas after a climate change? Scientist's are trying to predict the growth outcome of the bamboo after climate change. The future results will help analyze the severity of the problem. Until we know which species of bamboo that climate change will affect, we won't be able to fully assess the situation. Once we know which species of bamboo will survive a climate change and where it will grow, a plan for the survival of the Giant Pandas can be put into action.