A young giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in China’s Changqing National Nature Reserve. Photo by Binbin Li/SavingSpecies (C) 2015.
The giant panda is simply iconic–a magnificent beast of uncommon beauty. And it has been on the front lines of battles to save endangered species for decades, with money and media following every captive panda birth and conservation effort.
A new paper in the prestigious scientific journal Conservation Biology by Chinese-doctoral student Li Binbin and SavingSpecies President Dr. Stuart Pimm demonstrates that in protecting forest habitat for the panda, many other species are also getting protections, too!
Pandas make great umbrellas —they shelter many other species
“I love pandas, but I also love—and love to photograph—other species, too. Many have worried that in protecting the giant panda, we might be neglecting other species. This isn’t the case,” Li said.
The study used cutting-edge methods to predict where species survive, using remote sensing to map out where forest remains in these areas and the known elevational ranges of the species. This provided very specific predictions of the most important habitat to protect species.
Li and Pimm’s paper found that the giant panda’s geographical range overlapped with 70% of forest bird species, 70% of forest mammals, and 31% of forest amphibian species found only in mainland China. However, the research also identified “gap species.” These are species that live in areas other than those set aside to protect pandas. Sometimes these areas were not protected at all. Sometimes they were protected, but not given the highest level of protection in the Chinese system. The study made specific recommendations for improvements.
Species that will benefit include primates such as the endangered Golden snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana). This spectacular creature has seen a decline of half its population in about 40 years, as its forest habitat has dwindled away.
Dr. Pimm, who has worked extensively in China over the last few years noted that China also supports international conventions committed to expanding protected areas. “We hope the results of our work will help both regional and national authorities select the best areas for a wide variety of China’s species.”
SavingSpecies helped to facilitate Binbin’s research. This model of protecting multiple species through strategic forest protection is at the core of SavingSpecies’ mission. We are so proud to see it put to work in China for the panda and many other species, too.