China’s Giant Panda Is An Umbrella Species, Its Protection Saves Other Species Too

Posted: Sep 17 2015, 3:45am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 17 2015, 10:30pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


China’s Giant Panda is an Umbrella Species, Its Protection Saves Other Species Too
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Saving giant pandas means saving many endangered, threatened species in China, a new study suggests.

The cute and furry giant panda is a national treasure of China. According to a latest study, the panda is also an umbrella species, whose protection indirectly saves many other species of an ecosystem including mammals, birds and amphibians.

“China has spectacular protected areas with exceptional number of species found nowhere else on Earth,” said Stuart L. Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. “The giant panda is the most famous of these – a global conservation icon. We wanted to know whether it serves as a protective umbrella for other species. We found that the giant panda’s geographical range overlaps with 70 percent of forest bird species, 70 percent of forest mammals and 31 percent of forest amphibian species found only in mainland China.”

In other words, efforts to preserve habitats of panda will save many other endangered, threatened species of the same region and area as well. 

For the study, researchers looked at a comprehensive database of species distribution areas in China. The purpose was to find out exactly where birds, mammals and amphibians exist in the region.

About 96% of the panda habitats are overlapping the regions where other species were found in high concentrations. The species found mainly in the mountains of southwestern China, especially in the province of Sichuan. It is the same region where giant pandas live right now.

“Many people have worried that in protecting the giant panda, we might be neglecting other species, but this isn’t the case.” Binbin Li, co-author of the study said.

In fact, protecting giant pandas will indirectly benefit endemic species too. There are precisely 14 mammal, 20 bird and 82 amphibian species in China that are not protected properly and most of them have been declared endangered.

Using geospatial analysis and statistical modeling, researchers have created a new map, indicating those locations where each endemic species could best survive.

“There is a great hope in the future,” said Li. “While the government and public keep focusing on pandas, it is easier to establish new protected areas and corridors in this region. It gives us the chance to protect the most important areas for other native species while protecting more panda habitats.

Researchers are hoping that their study “will help both regional and national authorities select the best areas for a wide variety of China’s species.”

The full study can be read here.

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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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