Temporal changes in giant panda habitat connectivity across boundaries of Wolong Nature Reserve, China

Journal or Book Title: Ecological Applications

Keywords: Ailuropoda melanoleuca; buffer area; China; cross-boundary; giant panda; habitat connectivity; land cover change; protected areas; reserve boundary; Wolong Nature Reserve

Volume/Issue: 17/4

Page Number(s): 1019-1030

Year Published: 2007


Global biodiversity loss is largely driven by human activities such as the conversion of natural to human-dominated landscapes. A popular approach to mitigating land cover change is the designation of protected areas (e.g., nature reserves). Nature reserves are traditionally perceived as strongholds of biodiversity conservation. However, many reserves are affected by land cover changes not only within their boundaries, but also in their surrounding areas. This study analyzed the changes in habitat for the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) inside Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China, and in a 3-km buffer area outside its boundaries, through a time series of classified satellite imagery and field observations. Habitat connectivity between the inside and the outside of the reserve diminished between 1965 and 2001 because panda habitat was steadily lost both inside and outside the reserve. However, habitat connectivity slightly increased between 1997 and 2001 due to the stabilization of some panda habitat inside and outside the reserve. This stabilization most likely occurred as a response to changes in socioeconomic activities (e.g., shifts from agricultural to nonagricultural economies). Recently implemented government policies could further mitigate the impacts of land cover change on panda habitat. The results suggest that Wolong Nature Reserve, and perhaps other nature reserves in other parts of the world, cannot be managed as an isolated entity because habitat connectivity declines with land cover changes outside the reserve even if the area inside the reserve is well protected. The findings and approaches presented in this paper may also have important implications for the management of other nature reserves across the world.

Type of Publication: Journal Article