As a species, pandas are not doing so hot. The 275 of them that live in China’s Qinling Mountains make up almost one-fifth of the world’s entire panda population. It’s been clear, in a general way, that climate change is probably not going to be great for the habitats that pandas enjoy, but one group of biologists decided to figure out exactly how screwed the Qinling Mountain pandas, in particular, are.
The answer, of course, is really, really screwed. The biologists looked at the likely fate of the mountains’ bamboo forests as the climate warms up. Bamboo might seem hardy, but it does not deal well with temperature changes. The scientists found that most of the bamboo the pandas eat is going to disappear, which means that eventually the pandas will too. Discovery News explains:
As a result, according to new projections, between 80 and 100 percent of livable panda habitat will disappear from the region in China’s Qinling Mountains by the end of the 21st century. …
[E]ven if researchers find bamboo that will continue to grow with warming, said Stanford ecologist Terry Root, they’d also need to ensure that pandas could get sufficient nutrients from those plants. And that’s not necessarily a sure thing.
We know that some creepy pandas will eat meat if they have to, but we don’t really want to see what happens when the last dozen pandas get that hungry.