The Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP) was founded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2003.
ITP aims to better understand the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and its climate and environmental changes, as well as enhance sustainable development in the region.
ITP has three campuses in Lhasa, Beijing and Kunming, respectively. It also operates the Tibetan Observation and Research Platform (TORP), which comprises five field stations on the Tibetan Plateau. They are: the Namco Monitoring and Research Station for Multispheric Interactions; the Southeast Tibet Observation and Research Station for the Alpine Environment; the Qomolangma Atmospheric and Environmental Observation and Research Station; the Muztagh Ata Westerly Observation and Research Station; and the Ngari Desert Observation and Research Station. These facilities make long-term, continuous observations of geophysical, atmospheric and tectonic phenomena to understand land surface processes and environmental changes on the Tibetan Plateau. In addition, ITP has a field network to monitor persistent organic pollutants, one to study stable isotopes in precipitation, and a seismic network to study the deep structure of the Earth and seismicity across the Tibetan Plateau.
The institute is home to three laboratories: The CAS Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes focuses on environmental changes on the Tibetan Plateau, and their impact on and response to global change and human adaptation. The CAS Key Laboratory of Continental Collision and Plateau Uplift aims to obtain multiple physical parameters and a thermal history of the Tibetan Plateau crustal and mantle structures, so as to acquire accurate data regarding Plateau uplift and related processes. The Laboratory of Alpine Ecology and Biodiversity focuses on responses by alpine ecosystems to global change, as well as biodiversity features and formation mechanisms under extreme environmental conditions.
Through global recruitment, ITP has attracted over 230 permanent employees, including 35 professors, 61 associate professors, 54 technical personnel, 20 management staff and about 68 junior employees. Among ITP’s research staff, one is a CAS member, four are principal investigators for projects sponsored by the National Basic Research Program of China (“973” Program), and several are working on the editorial boards of internationally renowned journals. ITP’s research staff also includes several recipients of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars Award, and several CAS Hundred Talents Program fellows. NSFC Creative Research Groups have been formed to target research areas such as Tibetan Plateau environmental changes and land surface processes, continental collision and Plateau uplift and alpine ecology and biodiversity. ITP has Ph.D. programs in physical geography and tectonics. Currently, about 142 young scholars are pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees and 26 postdoctoral researchers are working at ITP.
Since 2006, ITP has conducted over 300 projects sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology, NSFC, CAS, local governments, as well as international funding agencies. They include four “973” Program projects, one NSFC Major Program project, one NSFC Fund for Creative Research Groups project, five National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholar projects, and 10 NSFC Key Program projects, with funds totaling over 410 million yuan. The percentage of grant proposals funded by NSFC places ITP in the top percentile of all universities and research institutions in China for the success rate. ITP scientists have published research papers in high-level journals such as Nature Climate Change, Reviews of Geophysics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Gondwana Research, New Phytologist, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, etc. Research results have drawn wide attention from the international academic community.
ITP is becoming an acknowledged international research center through the Third Pole Environment program, which uses earth system sciences to understand how the Tibetan Plateau affects the global environment. It also supports the development of the Tibet Autonomous Region by providing knowledge and technology, and cultivating talent for the region.