North Carolina – A study published in the journal Conservation Biology suggested that the special conservation and protection given to pandas in China is also helping other species. Among them, there are birds, mammals and amphibians.
Researchers Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke, and lead author Binbin Li, a Ph.D. student who works with park authorities in the Min Shan Mountains of Sichaun, conducted a study to find out if the protection given to the areas where the endangered giant pandas live also benefits other animals. The study was based in China.
“China has spectacular protected areas with exceptional numbers of species found nowhere else on Earth. The giant panda is the most famous of these – a global conservation icon. We wanted to know whether it serves as a protective umbrella for other species,” said Primm, as reported by Duke Environment.
The results were encouraging. Because many of China’s unique species of animals, like snub-nosed monkeys and takins, tend to live in the same area where the giant pandas live, the endangered iconic animal’s habitat overlaps with 70 percent of forest mammals and bird species, as well as 31 percent of forest amphibian species.
The findings are important, since they prove that protecting new areas in the region can be easier if people focuses on protecting where the pandas live. “There is great hope in the future. While the government and the public keep focusing on pandas, it is easier to establish new protected areas and corridors in this region. It gives us the chance to protect the most important areas for other native species while protecting more panda habitats,” said Li.
How was it done?
The distribution of the species was based on maps that indicate where these animals live in southwestern China. This country was selected to be the target of the study because there is a low population of these animals and they often face the biggest risk of extinction.
Researchers created a comprehensive database by using existing maps that highlighted the problematic areas in China where species were at the risk of extinction. After that, the scientists made a new map using statistical modeling and geospatial analysis to predict where the endangered animals had the best chance to survive.
The third step was to compare the newest maps to others of areas that represented good forest habitats and that way, they were able to predict which locations could contribute to the survival of these animals.
The study also helped identify “gap species”, which are species that live in areas that are partially protected or not protected at all.