Free-ranging livestock threaten the long-term survival of giant pandas

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2017-12-01

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© 2017 Elsevier Ltd China has implemented forest policies and expanded protected areas to halt deforestation and protect giant panda habitats. These policies simultaneously encouraged local communities to raise livestock that then freely range in forests. This grazing had unintended consequences. As an alternative livelihood, it has become the most prevalent human disturbance across the panda's range. How do free-ranging livestock impact giant panda habitats and what are the implications for future conservation and policy on a larger scale? We use Wanglang National Nature Reserve as a case study. It has seen a nine-fold livestock increase during past 15 years. We combined bamboo survey plots, GPS collar tracking, long-term monitoring, and species distribution modelling incorporating species interaction to understand the impacts across spatial and temporal scales. Our results showed that livestock, especially horses, lead to a significant reduction of bamboo biomass and regeneration. The most intensively used areas by livestock are in the valleys, which are also the areas that pandas prefer. Adding livestock presence to predictive models of the giant panda's distribution yielded a higher accuracy and suggested livestock reduce panda habitat by 34%. Pandas were driven out of the areas intensively used by livestock. We recommend the nature reserve carefully implement a livestock ban and prioritise removing horses because they cause the greater harm. To give up livestock, local communities prefer long-term subsidies or jobs to a one-time payment. Thus, we recommend the government provide payments for ecosystem services that create jobs in forest stewardship or tourism while reducing the number of domestic animals.

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10.1016/j.biocon.2017.09.019

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Li, Binbin V, Stuart L Pimm, Sheng Li, Lianjun Zhao and Chunping Luo (2017). Free-ranging livestock threaten the long-term survival of giant pandas. Biological Conservation, 216. pp. 18–25. 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.09.019 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17915.

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Scholars@Duke

Li

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.

Pimm

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, www.savingnature.org, 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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