Most panda habitat is outside nature reserves: research

July 28, 2010

Though much effort and many resources have been expended to protect the endangered giant panda, research by an international team of scientists shows that much suitable panda habitat is outside the nature reserves and areas where the panda is reported to live.

"This research can help the Chinese government and international non-governmental organizations develop comprehensive strategic plans for more effective conservation of the panda," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, MSU University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and serves as director of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). Liu is internationally known for his work on and coupled human and natural systems.

"Overall, about 40 percent of the suitable habitat for is inside the ," said Andrés Viña, CSIS specialist. "Our model also identified potentially suitable habitat outside the currently accepted geographic range of the panda."

The research is published in the journal Biological Conservation.

The is the rarest member of the bear family. Panda once ranged throughout most of China, northern Vietnam and northern Myanmar. Today, fewer than 1,600 giant pandas live in the wild in three Chinese provinces: Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan. Human actions -- including logging, residential development and the expansion of farming -- are considered the main reasons for the dramatic contraction of the giant panda's habitat.

The research team developed habitat models using geographical/environmental information gathered by satellites overlaid with information on panda occurrence. After analyzing the six mountain regions in the three provinces where pandas are known to live, the scientists developed a habitat suitability index for the entire 48,328-square-mile area.

The range-wide habitat analysis model gives governments and other agencies a new tool as they develop conservation strategies and priorities not only for pandas but also for many other endangered species.

"The Chinese government plans to add approximately 69,500 square miles of land to the country's nature reserve system between 2010 and 2020," said Zhiyun Ouyang, director of the Lab of Urban and Regional Ecology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. "So opportunities exist to create new reserves, to expand existing reserves and to create corridors that increase the connectivity among the reserves. On the basis of our results, we suggest some new areas to be included in China's nature reserve system."

Explore further: U.S. and China study giant pandas

Related Stories

U.S. and China study giant pandas

November 27, 2005

A team of Chinese and U.S. zoologists Sunday began a joint study of wild giant pandas in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

To catch a panda

December 10, 2007

Michigan State University’s panda habitat research team has spent years collecting mountains of data aimed at understanding and saving giant pandas. Now a graduate student is working to catch crucial data that’s black, ...

China panda population stable: report

September 19, 2009

China's wild panda population has remained stable despite last year's Sichuan earthquake that damaged key areas of the endangered species' habitat, state press said Saturday.

Panda genome resembles dog: Chinese media

December 13, 2009

A detailed genome map of the giant panda completed by Chinese scientists has shown that the notoriously shy animal is genetically similar to the dog, state media reported Sunday.

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.