Integrating Population Size Analysis into Habitat Suitability Assessment: Implications for Giant Panda Conservation in the Minshan Mountains, China


Wang, Xuezhi; Xu, Weihua; Ouyang, Zhiyun

Journal or Book Title: Ecological Research

Keywords: Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca); Ecological-niche factor analysis; Habitat suitability; Population size; The Minshan Mountains; Nature reserves

Volume/Issue: 24

Page Number(s): 1107-1109

Year Published: 2009


Compared to conventional approaches, the integration of population size analysis with habitat
suitability assessment on a large scale can provide more evidence to explain the mechanisms of habitat isolation and fragmentation, and thus make regional conservation plans. In this paper, we analyzed the habitat suitability for giant pandas in the Minshan Mountains, China, using the ecological-niche factor analysis (ENFA)
method, and then evaluated the current conservation status of this endangered species. The results showed
that (1) giant pandas were distributed in a narrow altitudinal range in which vegetation cover was dominated
by coniferous forest, mixed coniferous and deciduous broadleaf forest, and deciduous broadleaf forest with
scattered bamboo understory, and (2) roads and human settlements had strong negative effects on the panda
habitat selection. According to habitat analysis, the total habitat area of giant panda in the Minshan Mountains
was 953,173 ha, which was fragmented into 12 habitat units by major roads, rivers, and human settlements.
The habitat of the mid-Minshan was less fragmentized, but was seriously fragmented in the north. The panda
population size estimation showed that 676 individuals inhabited the study area, and 94.53% of them were in
the mid-Minshan, but small panda populations less than 30 individuals inhabited the isolated and fragmented
habitat patches in the north. The nature reserves in the Minshan Mountains have formed three conservation
groups, which covered 41.26% of panda habitat and protected 70.71% of panda population of the study area,
but there still exists two conservation gaps, and the connectivity among these reserves is still weak. Due
to habitat isolation and extensive human disturbances, giant pandas in the north (i.e., Diebu, Zhouqu, and
Wudou) are facing threats of local extinction. In order to protect pandas and their habitats in this area, some
effective conservation approaches, such as establishing new reserves in gap areas, creating corridors among
patches, and seasonally controlling traffic flux in key roads, should be implemented in the future to link these
isolated habitats together.

DOI: 10.1007/s11284-009-0589-2

Type of Publication: Journal Article