Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sichuan Earthquake Destroyed Nearly A Quarter Of Panda Habitat Near Quake's Epicenter

Date:
July 28, 2009
Source:
Ecological Society of America
Summary:
When the magnitude 8 Sichuan earthquake struck southern China in May 2008, it left more than 69,000 people dead and 4.3 million homeless. Now ecologists have added to these losses an assessment of the earthquake's impact on biodiversity. Researchers show that more than 23 percent of the pandas' habitat in the study area was destroyed, and fragmentation of remaining habitat could hinder panda reproduction.

When the magnitude 8 Sichuan earthquake struck southern China in May 2008, it left more than 69,000 people dead and 4.3 million homeless. Now ecologists have added to these losses an assessment of the earthquake's impact on biodiversity: namely, habitat for some of the last existing wild giant pandas. In an article published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment e-view, researchers show that more than 23 percent of the pandas' habitat in the study area was destroyed, and fragmentation of the remaining habitat could hinder panda reproduction.

The Sichuan region is designated as one of 25 global hotspots for biodiversity conservation, according to a 2000 study. Home to more than 12,000 species of plants and 1122 species of vertebrates, the area includes more than half of the habitat for the Earth's wild giant panda population, says study lead author Weihua Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

"We estimate that above 60 percent of the wild giant panda population was affected to some extent by the earthquake," says Xu.

In an effort to develop conservation strategies for the panda's remaining habitat, Xu and his colleagues used satellite imagery, field observations and published research to determine the pandas' habitat loss and fragmentation in the South Minshan region, which is adjacent to the earthquake's epicenter. Since forests are the main vegetation type used by the pandas, the authors compared forested areas in satellite images from September 2007, before the earthquake, to images after the earthquake and its aftershocks, in July 2008.

The authors then combined results based on these satellite data with criteria that make forests suitable for pandas, including elevation, slope incline and presence of bamboo. Their analyses revealed that more than 354 square kilometers, or about 23 percent, of the pandas' habitat was converted to bare land. Of the remaining habitat, the researchers found that large habitat areas had been fragmented into smaller, disconnected patches, which Xu says can be just as harmful as habitat destruction.

"It is probable that habitat fragmentation has separated the giant panda population inhabiting this region, which could be as low as 35 individuals," says Xu. "This kind of isolation increases their risk of extinction in the wild, due in part to a higher likelihood of inbreeding."

Xu and his colleagues propose a plan to encourage pandas to move between patches using specially protected corridors. They also recommend areas to be protected outside of nature reserves, where the earthquake caused more than twice as much damage to panda habitat as inside reserves. Finally, they recommend that post-earthquake relocation of affected towns takes panda habitat into consideration.

"It is vital to the survival of this species that measures are taken to protect panda habitat outside nature reserves," Xu says. "Giant pandas in this region are more vulnerable than ever to human disturbance, including post-earthquake reconstruction and tourism. When coupled with these increasing human activities, natural disasters create unprecedented challenges for biodiversity conservation."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecological Society of America. "Sichuan Earthquake Destroyed Nearly A Quarter Of Panda Habitat Near Quake's Epicenter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727102034.htm>.
Ecological Society of America. (2009, July 28). Sichuan Earthquake Destroyed Nearly A Quarter Of Panda Habitat Near Quake's Epicenter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727102034.htm
Ecological Society of America. "Sichuan Earthquake Destroyed Nearly A Quarter Of Panda Habitat Near Quake's Epicenter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727102034.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Hurricane Gonzalo pounded Bermuda with wind and heavy surf on Friday, bearing down on the tiny British territory as a powerful Category 3 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Powerful hurricane could hit Bermuda this weekend, and even if it misses it will likely do some damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) One of the largest volcanic eruptions in centuries is occurring on Iceland. The volcano Bardarbunga is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins