Wei, D; Zhao, H; Zhang, JX; Qi, YH; Wang, XD (2020). Human activities alter response of alpine grasslands on Tibetan Plateau to climate change. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, 262, 110335.

The world's largest alpine pastures are found on the Tibetan Plateau, where considerable climate changes and human impacts have been experienced. Identifying their contributions to terrestrial productivity is essential if we are to adapt to, or mitigate the effects of, climate change. In this work, we begin by showing how the current warming and wetting of the climate over the last three decades has favored plant growth, as consistently captured by satellite observations and 15 models. However, the interactions between climate factors explain less of the variation in greenness observed by satellites after the 2000s, implying non-climatic influences. Next, we show that there is a significant negative impact of livestock grazing on pasture greenness, especially in peak summer. Official statistics across 72 counties verify these negative impacts, especially in poorer pastures with a higher density of grazing livestock. The variation in grazing density has a stronger negative effect on vegetation growth during the early part of the growing season after the 2000s, as compared with that before the 2000s. We found a compensatory effect of grazing and climate on alpine grassland growth, and the grazing regulates the response of vegetation greenness to climate change by modulating the dependency of vegetation growth on temperature. Thus, we suggest there is a weakening influence of climate on the greenness of alpine pastures, largely due to a strengthening influence of management, which should be considered by both the scientific community and policymakers.