Man has a stronger effect on the vegetation of the Tibetan Plateau than warming

(ORDO NEWS) — A study by Chinese scientists has found that human activity is putting much more pressure on vegetation in the Tibetan Plateau than climate change, Xinhua news agency reported.

Previous research has shown that climate variability, rather than overgrazing, is the main cause of large-scale changes in highland land cover. However, it remains unclear how human activities such as grazing regulate vegetation dynamics in the face of climate change.

A research team led by Wei Yanqiang of the Northwest Institute of Ecology and Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences used the AVHRR/GIMMS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as an indicator to analyze the spatiotemporal state of vegetation growth on the plateau from 1981 to 2015.

They also studied the dual impacts of climate change and human activity by correlating data from 87 weather stations and plateau economic statistics, according to a study published in Earth’s Future.

They found that vegetation in the high central and southwestern regions is improving due to warm, humid climate trends. Global warming has increased temperatures at high altitudes, leading to an expansion of vegetation.

The results also showed that the degraded areas were mostly limited to the northeastern and eastern highlands with dense populations and large numbers of livestock. Compared to moderate changes in climate trends, human activities such as long-term grazing in low mountain valleys put more pressure on vegetation in these areas.

The study showed that anthropogenic pressure is much more intense than the impact of climate change and is critical for the conservation and sustainable management of highland vegetation.

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