Experts have been monitoring glaciers in China's Qinghai province that feed the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers since 2005, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported Friday.
Researchers said a large area of the glaciers has melted in the 900-square-mile region.
Aerial surveys show a cluster of some 80 glaciers around the Aemye Ma-chhen Range, the source of the Yellow River headwaters, is shrinking especially fast, they said.
"I can sometimes see the Ameye Ma-chhen Range on the plane. But I worry that we are not likely to see the glaciers there in 10 years or more," Li Xiaonan, deputy head of the Qinghai Three-River Headwaters Office, said.
About 5.3 percent, or 27 square miles, of the glaciers in Yangtze headwaters have melted in the past three decades, another researcher said.
"The melting of glaciers is closely connected with climate change," Cheng Haining, senior engineer with the provincial surveying and mapping bureau, said.
The shrinking of the glaciers could lead to a water shortage and even a dry-up of rivers in the long run, leading to ecological disasters such as wetland retreat and desertification, the researchers said.