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More grasslands in Tibet could bring climate improvements

Date:
August 20, 2015
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
In the Arctic, enhanced vegetation growth amplifies global warming. On the Tibetan Plateau, however, the situation is the reverse. "The trend in Tibet is the opposite of what we are seeing in the Arctic," says an expert. "By restoring grasslands there, the climate can be improved -- both locally and globally."
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Professor Deliang Chen in Tibet.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Gothenburg

In the Arctic, enhanced vegetation growth amplifies global warming. On the Tibetan Plateau, however, the situation is the reverse.

"The trend in Tibet is the opposite of what we are seeing in the Arctic," says Professor Deliang Chen from the University of Gothenburg. "By restoring grasslands there, the climate can be improved -- both locally and globally."

In the Arctic, warming increases like a spiral. Global warming means that the periods of growth are becoming longer and vegetation growth is increasing. At the same time, heat transfer to the Arctic from lower latitudes is rising, reducing sea ice there, and this in turn is contributing towards a faster local rise in temperature.

New research shows the reverse effect on the Tibetan Plateau

A new research study published in the journal PNAS shows that the situation is the reverse on the Tibetan Plateau.

Vegetation on the Tibetan Plateau has also increased as a result of global warming. However, in contrast to the Arctic areas, the longer periods of growth and the increased vegetation activity here appear to mean that global warming is being weakened.

"The reason for this is that increased evapotranspiration from plants is cooling the air," explains Deliang Chen, Professor of Physical Meteorology at the University of Gothenburg.

Restoring grasslands may improve the climate

The climate models also simulate daytime cooling as a result of the increased vegetation, albeit with a smaller magnitude than currently observed.

"Our results suggest that actions to restore native grasslands in degraded areas, roughly one-third of the plateau, will both facilitate a sustainable ecological development in this region and bring local and global climate benefits."

More accurate simulations of the biophysical coupling between the land surface and the atmosphere are needed to help fully understand regional climate change over the Tibetan Plateau.


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Materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Miaogen Shen, Shilong Piao, Su-Jong Jeong, Liming Zhou, Zhenzhong Zeng, Philippe Ciais, Deliang Chen, Mengtian Huang, Chun-Sil Jin, Laurent Z. X. Li, Yue Li, Ranga B. Myneni, Kun Yang, Gengxin Zhang, Yangjian Zhang, Tandong Yao. Evaporative cooling over the Tibetan Plateau induced by vegetation growth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 112 (30): 9299 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1504418112

Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "More grasslands in Tibet could bring climate improvements." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150820082340.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2015, August 20). More grasslands in Tibet could bring climate improvements. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150820082340.htm
University of Gothenburg. "More grasslands in Tibet could bring climate improvements." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150820082340.htm (accessed May 28, 2017).

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