Climate Change Promotes Pika Grazing And Grassland Degradation In Tibet

A warmer climate over the Tibetan plateau may result in alpine grassland degradation by decreasing plant growth and increasing pika grazing.

AsianScientist (Jun. 17, 2019) – Scientists in China have identified links between climate change, the behavior of grazing animals and grassland degradation on the Tibetan plateau. Their results are published in the journal Plant Ecology.

Plateau pika, a keystone species found on Tibetan grasslands, prefer to live in warm and dry habitats. It is identified as a pest responsible for land degradation. Because of global warming, increased pika grazing has resulted in grassland degradation of the Tibetan plateau, according to scientists led by Professor Luo Tianxiang at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China.

The team carried out a two-year-long experiment in Namtso of Tibet, investigating how changes in temperature, precipitation and pika herbivory impacted plant growth. During the growing season, warming significantly reduced plant height of the two dominant plant species Stipa purpurea and Kobresia macrantha, whereas increased precipitation and its interactions with warming stimulated plant growth.

Warming significantly increased the frequency, consumption and intensity of pika herbivory on S. purpurea. On the other hand, increased precipitation significantly reduced pika herbivory intensity, resulting in a net positive effect on plant growth.

However, the pika grazing activity on K. macrantha varied little with warming and precipitation change.

The article can be found at: Wei et al. (2019) The Effect of Pika Grazing on Stipa purpurea Is Amplified by Warming but Alleviated by Increased Precipitation in an Alpine Grassland.


Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences; Photo: Pixabay.
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