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Warming & Land Use Change Concurrently Erode Ecosystem Services in Alpine meadows on the Tibetan Plateau

August 17, 2018 |

By Franco accordi [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

This paper was originally published in Global Change Biology

Abstract: Alpine meadows on the Tibetan Plateau comprise the largest alpine ecosystem in the world and provide critical ecosystem services, including forage production and carbon sequestration, on which people depend from local to global scales. However, the provision of these services may be threatened by climate warming combined with land use policies that are altering if and how pastoralists can continue to graze livestock, the dominant livelihood practice in this region for millennia.

We synthesized findings from a climate warming and yak grazing experiment with landscape‐level observations in central Tibet to gain insight into the trajectories of change that Tibet’s alpine meadows will undergo in response to expected changes in climate and land use. We show that within five years, experimental warming drove an alpine community with intact, sedge‐dominated turfs into a degraded state.

With removal of livestock, consistent with policy intended to reverse degradation, a longer‐term shift to a more shrub‐dominated community will likely occur. Neither degraded nor shrub meadows produce forage or sequester carbon to the same degree as intact meadows, indicating that climate warming and drying will reduce the ability of Tibet’s alpine meadows to provide key ecosystem services, and that livestock reduction policies intended to counteract trajectories of land degradation instead endanger contemporary livelihoods on the Tibetan Plateau…”

Read on and access the full paper at: Global Change Biology.

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