China's endemic vertebrates sheltering under the protective umbrella of the giant panda.

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Li, Binbin V
Pimm, Stuart L

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The giant panda attracts disproportionate conservation resources. How well does this emphasis protect other endemic species? Detailed data on geographical ranges are not available for plants or invertebrates, so we restrict our analyses to 3 vertebrate taxa: birds, mammals, and amphibians. There are gaps in their protection, and we recommend practical actions to fill them. We identified patterns of species richness, then identified which species are endemic to China, and then which, like the panda, live in forests. After refining each species' range by its known elevational range and remaining forest habitats as determined from remote sensing, we identified the top 5% richest areas as the centers of endemism. Southern mountains, especially the eastern Hengduan Mountains, were centers for all 3 taxa. Over 96% of the panda habitat overlapped the endemic centers. Thus, investing in almost any panda habitat will benefit many other endemics. Existing panda national nature reserves cover all but one of the endemic species that overlap with the panda's distribution. Of particular interest are 14 mammal, 20 bird, and 82 amphibian species that are inadequately protected. Most of these species the International Union for Conservation of Nature currently deems threatened. But 7 mammal, 3 bird, and 20 amphibian species are currently nonthreatened, yet their geographical ranges are <20,000 km(2) after accounting for elevational restriction and remaining habitats. These species concentrate mainly in Sichuan, Yunnan, Nan Mountains, and Hainan. There is a high concentration in the east Daxiang and Xiaoxiang Mountains of Sichuan, where pandas are absent and where there are no national nature reserves. The others concentrate in Yunnan, Nan Mountains, and Hainan. Here, 10 prefectures might establish new protected areas or upgrade local nature reserves to national status.





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Li, Binbin V, and Stuart L Pimm (2016). China's endemic vertebrates sheltering under the protective umbrella of the giant panda. Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, 30(2). pp. 329–339. 10.1111/cobi.12618 Retrieved from

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Binbin Li

Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Duke Kunshan University

Dr. Binbin Li is the Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences of the Environmental Research Center at Duke Kunshan University. She holds a secondary appointment with Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Her research focuses on loss of biodiversity, endangered and endemic species conservation such as giant pandas, priority setting and management of protected areas, and promotion of innovative technology, markets and policies to solve conservation problems and local community development. Dr. Li got her PhD in Environment from Duke University (2017), M.S in Natural Resources and Environment from University of Michigan (2012). and B.S in Life Sciences with a dual degree in Economics from Peking University (2010).

Dr. Li’s work covers the identification of conservation priorities and national parks in China, impacts of One Belt One Road on biodiversity, giant panda conservation and management via Footprint Identification Technique (FIT), impacts of oil palm and rubber plantations on biodiversity in Southeast Asia, influence of national environmental policies on human-wildlife conflicts, and behavioral study of endemic species. She is also a member of the IUCN SSC Small Mammal Specialist Group.

Dr. Li is engaged in science communication and nature education. She is a signed nature photographer at Swild in China. During 2013-2015, she served as a science advisor for Disney nature documentary “Born in China”. She is devoted in using photography, social media, drama, and other art formats to promote conservation science in the public.


Stuart L. Pimm

Doris Duke Distinguished Professor of Conservation Ecology in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences

Stuart Pimm is a world leader in the study of present-day extinctions and what can be done to prevent them. His research covers the reasons why species become extinct, how fast they do so, the global patterns of habitat loss and species extinction and, importantly, the management consequences of this research. Pimm received his BSc degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1974. Pimm is the author of over 350 scientific papers and five books. He is one of the most highly cited environmental scientists. Pimm wrote the highly acclaimed assessment of the human impact to the planet: The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth in 2001. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has led to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. He was worked and taught in Africa for nearly 30 years on elephants, most recently lions — through National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative — but always on topics that relate to the conservation of wildlife and the ecosystems on which they depend. Other research areas include the Everglades of Florida and tropical forests in South America, especially the Atlantic Coast forest of Brazil and the northern Andes — two of the world's "hotspots" for threatened species. His international honours include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006), the Society for Conservation Biology’s Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award (2006), and the Marsh Award for Conservation Biology, from the Marsh Christian Trust (awarded by the Zoological Society of London in 2004). Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, awarded him the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2007. In 2019, he won the International Cosmos Prize, which recognised his founding and directing Saving Nature,, a non-profit that uses donations for carbon emissions offsets to fund local conservation groups in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity to restore their degraded lands. 

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