Assessing the collapse risk of Stipa bungeana grassland in China based on its distribution changes
The criteria used by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) are the global standards for ecosystem-level risk assessment, and they have been increasingly used for biodiversity conservation. The changed distribution area of an ecosystem is one of the key criteria in such assessments. The Stipa bungeana grassland is one of the most widely distributed grasslands in the warm-temperate semi-arid regions of China. However, the total distribution area of this grassland was noted to have shrunk and become fragmented because of its conversion to cropland and grazing-induced degradation. Following the IUCN-RLE standards, here we analyzed changes in the geographical distribution of this degraded grassland, to evaluate its degradation and risk of collapse. Past (1950–1980) distribution areas were extracted from the Vegetation Map of China (1:1,000,000). Present realizable distribution areas were equated to these past areas minus any habitat area losses. We then predicted the grassland's present and future (under the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 scenario) potential distribution areas using maximum entropy algorithm (MaxEnt), based on field survey data and nine environmental layers. Our results showed that the S. bungeana grassland was mainly distributed in the Loess Plateau, Hexi Corridor, and low altitudes of the Qilian Mountains and Longshou Mountain. This ecosystem occurred mainly on loess soils, kastanozems, steppe aeolian soils and sierozems. Thermal and edaphic factors were the most important factors limiting the distribution of S. bungeana grassland across China. Since 56.1% of its past distribution area (4.9×104 km2) disappeared in the last 50 a, the present realizable distribution area only amounts to 2.2×104 km2. But only 15.7% of its present potential distribution area (14.0×104 km2) is actually occupied by the S. bungeana grassland. The future potential distribution of S. bungeana grassland was predicted to shift towards northwest, and the total area of this ecosystem will shrink by 12.4% over the next 50 a under the most pessimistic climate change scenario. Accordingly, following the IUCN-RLE criteria, we deemed the S. bungeana grassland ecosystem in China to be endangered (EN). Revegetation projects and the establishment of protected areas are recommended as effective ways to avert this looming crisis. This empirical modeling study provides an example of how IUCN-RLE categories and criteria may be valuably used for ecosystem assessments in China and abroad.
climate change; limiting factors; maximum entropy algorithm; potential distribution; realizable distribution; Red List of Ecosystems; Loess Plateau
QIAO, Xianguo; GUO, Ke; LI, Guoqing; ZHAO, Liqing; and LI, Yonghong Frank
"Assessing the collapse risk of Stipa bungeana grassland in China based on its distribution changes,"
Journal of Arid Land: Vol. 12:
2, Article 10.
Available at: https://egijournals.researchcommons.org/journal-of-arid-land/vol12/iss2/10