Responses of vegetation distribution to climate change in China

Abstract

Climate plays a crucial role in controlling vegetation distribution and climate change may therefore cause extended changes. A coupled biogeography and biogeochemistry model called BIOME4 was modified by redefining the bioclimatic limits of key plant function types on the basis of the regional vegetation–climate relationships in China. Compared to existing natural vegetation distribution, BIOME4 is proven more reliable in simulating the overall vegetation distribution in China. Possible changes in vegetation distribution were simulated under climate change scenarios by using the improved model. Simulation results suggest that regional climate change would result in dramatic changes in vegetation distribution. Climate change may increase the areas covered by tropical forests, warm-temperate forests, savannahs/dry woodlands and grasslands/dry shrublands, but decrease the areas occupied by temperate forests, boreal forests, deserts, dry tundra and tundra across China. Most vegetation in east China, specifically the boreal forests and the tropical forests, may shift their boundaries northwards. The tundra and dry tundra on the Tibetan Plateau may be progressively confined to higher elevation.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA05090308), National Basic Research Program of China (2011CB403206), and National Natural Science Foundation of China (40901058). We thank Prof. Yinlong Xu from Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences, for providing climate scenario data. We appreciate two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Shaohong Wu.

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Zhao, D., Wu, S. Responses of vegetation distribution to climate change in China. Theor Appl Climatol 117, 15–28 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-013-0971-4

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Keywords

  • Tibetan Plateau
  • Tropical Forest
  • Boreal Forest
  • Vegetation Distribution
  • Biome Type