Page last updated at 09:23 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Climate may force pandas to move

Panda
Pandas only eat about 20 varieties of bamboo

Climate change could force pandas to move to different parts of China as patterns of bamboo growth shift in the future, it has been claimed.

Of 100 bamboo varieties, only 20 are eaten by pandas, and all are said to be affected differently by climate change.

Edinburgh scientists have been in Sichuan Province collecting data in a bid to map where certain bamboo types will be growing between 2020 and 2080.

York University experts have been using the data to work out future trends.

The data was analysed by the York University team using a special computer programme called Yoga, York Genetic Algorithm developed by Dr Colin McClean.

The results were particularly striking in that some of the key food plants were badly affected, whereas others actually increased their ranges under global warming
Dr Jon Lovett
York University
Dr McClean said: "The programme makes a bioclimatic envelope for each bamboo species.

"We can then move this envelope into future climate scenarios to see how the bamboos might be affected by climate change.

"Yoga is particularly useful because it can produce good results on relatively small data sets."

Dr Jon Lovett, who led the work at York University, said ecological changes would predominantly influence pandas to decide where to live.

He said: "The results were particularly striking in that some of the key food plants were badly affected, whereas others actually increased their ranges under global warming.

"So the impacts of climate change are complex, favouring some species while making others rarer.

"Fostering this sort of adaptation seems to be the most important policy approach to adopt now, as global use of fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change, shows little sign of slowing down."

Professor Steve Blackmore, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, who has just returned from China, said: "Pandas spend 14 hours a day eating, and bamboo forms 99% of their diet, so they are completely reliant on the right bamboo species being present in order to survive."

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