Tibetan Plateau

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


This project is in collaboration with Dr. Julia Klein at Colorado State University

Climate models are predicting warmer air temperatures and increasing snow storms for the Nam Co region on the Tibetan Plateau. These changes will have large impacts on the vegetation, the grazing animals, and the livelihood of the herders who depend on the grassland.

Our collaborators from Colorado State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are studying how climate change (changes in precipitation and air temperature ) as well as land management policies (grazing and pika exclusion policies) will affect the grassland ecosystem.

In summer of 2009, we began setting up the experiment by building pika exclusion fences, installing open top chambers (to simulate warming), adding snow (to simulate increases in spring snow storms), and starting grazing treatments with yaks. We have also installed data loggers to monitor local climatic variables.

We are interested in water use by the different plant functional groups and we use oxygen and hydrogen isotope to understand how different plants use water. The Tibetan Plateau receives 80% of precipitation in the form of monsoon rains and only 20% or precipitation is in the form of snow.

We addressed the following questions:

  1. how will increasing spring snowstorms affect water use between deep rooted and shallow rooted species;
  2. how will these changes in precipitation and air temperature affect nutrient acquisition by the plants; and,
  3. how will these climatic changes affect soil carbon fluxes?