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Impacts of spatio-temporal changes in agricultural land on giant panda habitat: A case study in the Baicaohe watershed of the mid-Minshan Mountains

Author(s): Xuezhi Wang | Weihua Xu | Zhiyun Ouyang

Journal: Biodiversity Science
ISSN 1005-0094

Volume: 17;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 10;
Date: 2009;

Keywords: the Minshan Mountains | giant panda | agricultural land | habitat | nature reserves

The mid-Minshan Mountains is one of the regions encompassing the most densely populations of giant pandas in China. Increasing agricultural activities in the area, involving deforestation and herbal medicine cultivation may negatively influence the giant panda and its habitat. To understand spatio-temporal changes in agricultural land and its impact on giant panda habitat, we conducted this study, using a combination of remote sensing, GIS spatial analysis and field surveys, in the Baicaohe watershed of the mid-Minshan Mountains, Sichuan. Agricultural land was mainly distributed below 1,700 m elevation, and its total area first decreased and then increased between 1994 and 2008. Area of agricultural land decreased below 1,700 m between 1994 and 2001, but it increased in higher-elevation areas surrounding the nature reserves between 2001 and 2008. Expansion of agricultural land directly caused a loss of 5,281 hm2 (6.46%) of giant panda habitat between 1994 and 2008. As negligible amounts of habitat affected inside the reserves, 21.53% of habitat outside the nature reserves were destroyed. To protect giant panda habitat in this region, not only agricultural cultivation should be prohibited in high-elevation zones adjacent to the nature reserves, but also, habitat outside the nature reserves should be protected as well as inside.
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