Panda habitat subject of U.S.-China study

EAST LANSING, Mich., July 28 (UPI) -- Much of China's suitable panda habitat is outside established nature reserves and areas where wild pandas are reported to live, researchers say.

As effort and resources are being expended to protect the endangered giant panda, identifying additional possible habitat for them can aid future conservations efforts, a Michigan State University study released Wednesday said.


"This research can help the Chinese government and international non-governmental organizations develop comprehensive strategic plans for more effective conservation of the panda," Jianguo Liu, MSU professor of fisheries and wildlife, said.

The joint U.S.-China habitat study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

"Overall, about 40 percent of the suitable habitat for pandas is inside the nature reserves," Andres Vina of MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability said. "Our model also identified potentially suitable habitat outside the currently accepted geographic range of the panda."

Fewer than 1,600 giant pandas live in the wild in three Chinese provinces, Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan.

Human actions, including logging, residential development and the expansion of farming, are considered the main factors in the contraction of the giant panda's habitat.

"The Chinese government plans to add about 69,500 square miles of land to the country's nature reserve system between 2010 and 2020," Zhiyun Ouyang at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing said.


"So opportunities exist to create new reserves, to expand existing reserves and to create corridors that increase the connectivity among the reserves," he said. "On the basis of (the study), we suggest some new areas to be included in China's nature reserve system."

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