An early warning signal for grassland degradation on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau
Intense grazing may lead to grassland degradation on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, but it is difficult to predict where this will occur and to quantify it. Based on a process-based ecosystem model, we define a productivity-based stocking rate threshold that induces extreme grassland degradation to assess whether and where the current grazing activity in the region is sustainable. We find that the current stocking rate is below the threshold in ~80% of grassland areas, but in 55% of these grasslands the stocking rate exceeds half the threshold. According to our model projections, positive effects of climate change including elevated CO2 can partly offset negative effects of grazing across nearly 70% of grasslands on the Plateau, but only in areas below the stocking rate threshold. Our analysis suggests that stocking rate that does not exceed 60% (within 50% to 70%) of the threshold may balance human demands with grassland protection in the face of climate change.
|An early warning signal for grassland degradation on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau
|Qiuan Zhu, Huai Chen, Changhui Peng, Jinxun Liu, Shilong Piao, Jin-Sheng He, Shiping Wang, Xinquan Zhao, Jiang Zhang, Xiuqin Fang, Jiaxin Jin, Qi-En Yang, Liliang Ren, Yanfen Wang
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Western Geographic Science Center