Tuanmu, Mao-Ning

Tuanmu, Mao-Ning
Yale University

Mao-Ning Tuanmu's research interests are oriented towards the spatial patterns and temporal dynamics of species distributions and biological diversity, their underlying processes and drivers, and their implications for biodiversity conservation. For his Ph.D. research, he has been studying the dynamics of giant panda habitat and of pandas’ major food resources, understory bamboo (i.e., bamboo species living under forest canopies). While bamboo distribution is one of the most important factors determining the quantity and quality of giant panda habitat, obtaining the information on bamboo distribution across large areas is challenging because the interference of forest canopies makes it difficult to directly see understory bamboo through remotely sensed data. To solve this problem, Andres Vina and Tuanmu are focusing on the seasonal variability of vegetation captured by high temporal resolution remotely sensed data. Because the bamboo species on which giant pandas depend have different phenology (i.e., timing of periodic biological events in an annual cycle) from the overstory tree species, they have found significant differences in the phenological characteristics between the forests with and without understory bamboo. Based on the differences, they have successfully mapped bamboo distribution using remotely sensed data and characterized giant panda habitat across the entire panda distribution range. They have further assessed the usefulness of the phenological characteristics derived from remotely sensed data for detecting panda habitat change over time. They've found that by modifying the way to extract vegetation’s phenological characteristics from remotely sensed data, they can improve the temporal transferability of panda habitat models, which is important for applying the models on habitat monitoring. Using this tool, the researchers are now working on the underlying processes which caused the panda habitat changes in the last decade. They're particularly interested in the effects of conservation programs, such as the Nature Forest Conservation Program and Grain-to-Green Program, and the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake on the dynamics of panda habitat. Besides the short-term changes in panda habitat, Tuanmu also is studying the impacts of climate change on the long-term dynamics of panda habitat with the support of the NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship. By using bioclimatic envelope models, he has assessed the potential climate change impacts on panda habitat from a perspective of food resources, i.e., understory bamboo. He's projected the potential shifts of climatically suitable areas for bamboo species under different future climate projections derived from different global climate models and CO2 emission scenarios, and have assessed their influences on panda habitat. He's also exploring the usefulness of remote sensing technology for improving climate change impact projections.

Research Interests: 
species distribution, biological diversity, spatial patterns and temporal dynamics, remote sensing