Pandas Can’t Take The Heat

Climate change is not just a threat to the giant panda’s supply of bamboo—it also makes them vulnerable to heat stress.

AsianScientist (Jun. 10, 2016) – Rising global temperatures could not only seriously threaten the giant panda’s food supply, they could cause the pandas to suffer from heat stress, researchers report in Scientific Reports.

“The crisis caused by the bamboo die-off in the 1980s has subsided,” said corresponding author, Professor James Spotila from Drexel University in the US. “The bamboo supply in nature reserves is not the limiting factor for giant panda populations and reintroduction programs.”

Research by Spotila and colleagues at the Chengdu Research Base in China—home of roughly 150 giant pandas— found that the pandas’ metabolism was actually just a little below what would be expected for a mammal of their size. At the metabolism rate determined by the research team, pandas would need to eat 29-33 pounds of bamboo per day to sustain themselves.

Although the researchers are confident that bamboo supplies, as they stand, can support the pandas, it may not be the case if temperatures rise due to climate change.

And it turns out that the threat of climate change is bad for the pandas themselves. Giant pandas experience heat stress when temperatures climb above 25 degrees Celsius. In nature, they actively seek out cool areas, or microhabitats, in summer and move to higher elevations to avoid heat.

Spotila believes that China has done a good job in its conservation efforts, but he fears that it could be all for naught if both local and global action isn’t taken to combat climate change.

“Unchecked climate change will undo all of the years of hard work by the Chinese to save their national icon,” Spotila said.

The article can be found at: Fei et al. (2016) Metabolic Rates of Giant pandas Inform Conservation Strategies.


Source: Drexel University; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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