A warming climate could affect the stability of alpine grasslands in Asia’s Tibetan Plateau, threatening the ability of farmers and herders to maintain the animals that are key to their existence, and potentially upsetting the ecology of an area in which important regional river systems originate, says a new study by researchers in China and the United States.

Though temperature changes could destabilize the fragile ecosystem of the area, variations in rainfall appear to have no similar effect. The study involved varying two factors likely to change with a warming climate – temperature and rainfall – in test plots over a five-year period. The project is believed to be the first to simultaneously examine the effects of temperature and rainfall changes on ecosystem stability.

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