Conservation of Giant Panda Habitat in South Minshan, China, after the May 2008 Earthquake


Xu, Weihua; Wang, Xuezhi; Ouyang, Zhiyun; Zhang, Jindong; Li, Zhiqi; Xiao, Yi; Zheng, Hua

Journal or Book Title: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Volume/Issue: 7/7

Page Number(s): 353-358

Year Published: 2009


In May 2008, a major earthquake struck Sichuan Province, in southwestern China. In addition to catastrophic loss of human life and destruction of towns and villages, the earthquake severely damaged ecosystems that support some of the last remaining giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) populations in the wild. To measure the extent of this destruction, we analyzed panda habitat loss and fragmentation across the South Minshan Mountains, using Thematic Mapper (TM) images and field data collected before and after the earthquake. Results show that 354 km2 (23%) of panda habitat in this region was destroyed, 249 km2 of which was inside nature reserves. The remaining habitat was fragmented by landslides and mudflows, thereby threatening the giant panda's long-term survival. Furthermore, the mean patch size of the remaining habitat inside reserves was only 23% of that outside, indicating markedly higher habitat fragmentation inside reserves compared to outside. To assist in regional conservation efforts for the giant panda and its habitat, we propose the creation of a conservation management unit that would include key areas, corridors, and current reserves, to encourage the dispersal/movement of pandas between isolated habitat patches. Other measures include human disturbance alleviation and “ecological compensation”, which would increase the efficacy of the conservation management unit.

DOI: 10.1890/080192

Type of Publication: Journal Article