More problems for the panda

Polar bears aren’t the only bears losing their habitat due to global warming.

A new study in the journal Nature Climate Change points to a big bump in the road for wild pandas: As the planet heats up, there will be less area where their primary food source, bamboo, can grow.

Researchers used climate-change models to look at the effects on three different bamboo species pandas commonly eat near China’s Qinling Mountain. Their results show that if global warming continues at its current rate, 80 to 100 percent of the giant panda’s present habitat will be unable to support bamboo – and pandas, too.

So researchers are working on a plan B. Conservationists are looking into moving panda reserves farther north to cooler areas. But although the temperatures in those areas might be right for bamboo, that’s no guarantee that the plant will take root.

Others pin their hopes on zoos and breeding centers, but team researcher Jianguo Liu told Live Science that keeping pandas in captivity severely restricts their genetic diversity and health, “To really protect pandas, you cannot just stick [them] into a breeding center or a zoo. That’s not a long-term solution.”

Photo: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar/Flickr

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