J Plant Ecol ›› 2019, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (6): 917-930.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtz038

• Review •     Next Articles

Review on global change status and its impacts on the Tibetan Plateau environment

Aamir Latif1,2, Sana Ilyas2,3, Yangjian Zhang1,4,*, Yuqin Xin5, Lin Zhou6 and Quan Zhou6   

  1. 1Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3Key Laboratory of Regional Climate-Environment for Temperate East Asia, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Beijing 100029, China
    4Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    5Sanmenxia Academy of Environmental Sciences, Sanmenxia 472000, China
    6Southwest Branch of State Grid Corporation of China, Chengdu 610094, China
    *Correspondence address. Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China. Tel/Fax: +86-10-6488-9703; E-mail: zhangyj@igsnrr.ac.cn
  • Received:2018-09-30 Revised:2019-05-17 Accepted:2019-07-15 Published:2019-12-01

Abstract:

The Tibetan Plateau (TP) holds fundamental ecological and environmental significances to China and Asia. The TP also lies in the core zone of the belt and road initiative. To protect the TP environment, a comprehensive screening on current ecological research status is entailed. The teased out research gap can also be utilized as guidelines for the recently launched major research programs, i.e. the second TP scientific expedition and silk and belt road research plan. The findings showed that the TP has experienced significant temperature increase at a rate of 0.2°C per decade since 1960s. The most robust warming trend was found in the northern plateau. Precipitation also exhibited an increasing trend but with high spatial heterogeneity. Changing climates have caused a series of environmental consequences, including lake area changes, glacier shrinkage, permafrost degradation and exacerbated desertification. The rising temperature is the main reason behind the glaciers shrinkage, snow melting, permafrost degradation and lake area changes on the TP and neighboring regions. The projected loss of glacial area on the plateau is estimated to be around 43% by 2070 and 75% by the end of the century. Vegetation was responsive to the changed environments, varied climates and intensified human activities by changing phenology and productivity. Future global change study should be more oriented toward integrating various research methods and tools, and synthesizing diverse subjects of water, vegetation, atmosphere and soil.

Key words: Tibetan Plateau, silk and belt road, climate change, human activities, environmental consequences