A wetland in Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve shows signs of desertification as an early morning fog lifts.

According to a 2015 report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Qinghai Plateau is warming two times faster than the global average and scientists predict temperatures will continue to rise a further 4.6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. As a result the water cycle is intensifying, as indicated by shrinking glaciers, expanding lakes and increased river flows. Meanwhile desertification is spreading across the plateau and will continue to expand in the future. Together with melting permafrost, worsening desertification is identified as the major driver of environmental degradation on the plateau. Wetlands rely on permafrost â" summer melt supplies wetlands with water, while the year-round subsurface frozen layer prevents water from seeping deeper into the soil and so benefits surface ecologies.

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Ian Teh/Pulitzer Center/Panos Pictures
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