Chinese caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) in China: Current distribution, trading, and futures under climate change and overexploitation.

Affiliation

Wei Y(1), Zhang L(2), Wang J(3), Wang W(4), Niyati N(3), Guo Y(5), Wang X(6).
Author information:
(1)Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing of Gansu Province, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, PR China. Electronic address: [Email]
(2)Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing of Gansu Province, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, PR China; College of Geosciences, Qinghai Normal University, Xining 810008, PR China.
(3)Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, PR China.
(4)College of Life Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China.
(5)Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, PR China.
(6)Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing of Gansu Province, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, PR China.

Abstract

Chinese caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) is a precious traditional medicine which is mostly distributed on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). Due to its medicinal values, it has become one of the most valuable biological commodities and widely traded in recent years worldwide. However, its habitat has changed profoundly in recent years under global warming as well as anthropogenic pressures, resulting in a sharp decline in its wild population in recent years. Based on the occurrence samples, this paper estimates the potential distribution of caterpillar fungus using MaxEnt model. The model simulates potential geographical distribution of the species under current climate conditions, and examine future distributions under different climatic change scenarios (i.e., RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5, RCP 6.0 and RCP 8.5 have been modelled in 2050s and 2070s, respectively). For examining the impacts of climate change in future, the integrated effects of climatic impact, trading, and overexploitation had been analyzed in detailed routes. The results show that: 1) The distribution patterns of caterpillar fungus under scenario RCP 2.6 have been predicted without obvious changes. However, range shift has been observed with significant shrinks across all classes of suitable areas in Tianshan, Kunlun Mountains, and the southwestern QTP in 2050s and 2070s under RCP 4.5, RCP 6.0 and RCP 8.5 scenarios, respectively. 2) The exports were decreasing drastically in recent years. Guangzhou and Hongkong are two international super import and consumption centres of caterpillar fungus in the world. 3) Both ecological and economic sustainable utilization of the caterpillar fungus has been threatened by the combined pressures of climate change and overexploitation. A strict but effective regulation and protection system, even a systematic management plan not just on the collectors but the whole explore process are urgently needed and has to be issued in the QTP.