“Higher climate temperatures would upset the entire system in the panda reserves and the wild, eliminating vast amounts of bamboo,” said one of the researchers James Spotila, Professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US.
But burning out food sources is not the only problem when it comes to climate change. Rising temperatures are bad for pandas themselves, the researchers noted.
Giant pandas experience heat stress when temperatures climb above 25 degrees Celsius.
“They have to live at temperatures below that to stay healthy,” Spotila said.
“In nature, they actively seek out cool areas (microhabitats) in summer and move to higher elevations to avoid heat,” he noted.
Working at the Chengdu Research Base in China, home of roughly 150 giant pandas, the researchers discovered that they have bigger appetites than originally believed.
Metabolism of pandas was actually just a little below what would be expected for a mammal of their size. Their rates were on-par for bears and came in just a little below seals, kangaroos and deer, the findings showed.
But past research placed the pandas’ metabolism at a much lower rate.
The researchers believe that although the metabolism of giant pandas is higher than previously reported, there is more than enough bamboo in nature to keep pandas healthy and happy for years. That is, until rising global temperatures kill the plants off.
The findings were reported in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Unchecked climate change will undo all of the years of hard work by the Chinese to save their national icon,” Spotila said.