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China and Global Change: Opportunities for Collaboration
proven otherwise, the prevailing attitude in China is that the climate is always changing, as has been amply recorded in China's long history.
The panel identified outstanding research projects on natural vegetation at the CAS Institute of Botany and one on agricultural systems at the CAS Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology.
CAS Institute of Botany
Under the leadership of Zhang Xinshi, director of the CAS Institute of Botany, very sophisticated information systems used to study climate-vegetation interactions in China have been developed at the Laboratory for Quantitative Vegetation Analysis. Databases on climate, topography, soils, land use, and vegetation cover have been integrated into a geographical information system (GIS) developed at the institute. Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) vegetation index data received and processed by the National Satellite Meteorological Center are being used by institute researchers. The computer facilities are principally advanced microcomputers with modern software. Vegetation zonation has been analyzed by using several classification schemes that are widely used for world-wide comparison and study of climate-vegetation interactions, including Thornwaite's and Holdridge's classifications, Budyko's radiative dryness index, and potential annual net primary productivity (NPP). In addition, multivariate methods have been used to rank and classify climate zones according to their climatological and geographical parameters.
This work provides a very strong foundation for studies of the effects of climate and CO2 change on terrestrial vegetation. Work is in progress to extend the use of remotely sensed vegetation index imagery in studies of vegetation dynamics and to use radiative transfer approaches to model NPP. Models of ecosystem physiology and coupling of physiological processes to the physical climate system are needed to link these studies to general circulation model (GCM) simulations of alternative climate scenarios and to examine continental-scale vegetation feedbacks on the climate system. The technological level of the facilities at the CAS Institute of Botany, especially the computer equipment, is not high by Western standards. Nevertheless, the creative use of resources and intellectual sophistication of the approach make this a world-class effort.