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Zhu L.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Zhu L.,University of Chinese Academy of Sciences | Zhan X.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Wu H.,CAS Institute of Zoology | And 5 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2010

In conservation biology, understanding the causes of endangerment is a key step to devising effective conservation strategies. We used molecular evidence (coalescent simulations of population changes from microsatellite data) and historical information (habitat and human population changes) to investigate how the most-isolated populations of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca. ) in the Xiaoxiangling Mountains became highly endangered. These populations experienced a strong, recent demographic reduction (60-fold), starting approximately 250 years BP. Explosion of the human population and use of non-native crop species at the peak of the Qing Empire resulted in land-use changes, deforestation, and habitat fragmentation, which are likely to have led to the drastic reduction of the most-isolated populations of giant pandas. We predict that demographic, genetic, and environmental factors will lead to extinction of giant pandas in the Xiaoxiangling Mountains in the future if the population remains isolated. Therefore, a targeted conservation action-translocation-has been proposed and is being implemented by the Chinese goverment. © 2010 Society for Conservation Biology.

Qi D.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Qi D.,Nanjing Normal University | Zhang S.,China Wildlife Conservation Association | Zhang Z.,CAS Institute of Zoology | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Zoology | Year: 2011

A feature of many endangered species management plans, is the provision or protection of habitat. However, defining exactly what constitutes habitat can be difficult. This is made more complicated when habitat preferences differ within a species such as between males and females. Using a combination of field surveys and sex identification through fecal DNA, we investigated gender differences in habitat use in wild giant pandas through ecological niche factor analysis modelling. Our results indicated that both males and females tended to prefer areas at high altitudes and with high forest cover. However, significant sexual differences in habitat selection were also observed. Furthermore, habitat preferences of females are more restrictive than those of males, and females have a stronger association with high altitude conifer forest, mixed forest, historically clear-felled forest and >10 to ≤20° slopes. The more restricted habitat preferences of females could be explained by their need for dens for birthing and dense bamboo cover for concealing the young. Therefore, effective conservation and management strategies should consider these differences in habitat selection of females and males. © 2011 The Authors. Journal of Zoology © 2011 The Zoological Society of London.

Zhu L.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Hu Y.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Qi D.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Wu H.,CAS Institute of Zoology | And 10 more authors.
Ecology | Year: 2013

The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) was taken to the brink of extinction in the 1980s through a combination of deforestation, large-scale loss of bamboo in the core of its range, poaching, and zoo collection, causing over 1000 deaths from the 1950s. It was thought that the drastic population decline was likely to impose a severe impact on population viability. Here, based on temporal genotyping of individuals, we show that this rapid decline did not significantly reduce the overall effective population size and genetic variation of this species, or of the two focal populations (Minshan and Qionglai) that declined the most. These results are contrary to previously assumptions, probably because the population decline has not produced the expected negative impact due to the short time scale involved (at most 10 generations), or because previous surveys underestimated the population size at the time of decline. However, if present-day habitat fragmentation and limited migration of giant pandas remains, we predict a loss of genetic diversity across the giant pandas' range in the near future. Thus, our findings highlight the substantial resilience of this species when facing demographic and environmental stochasticity, but key conservation strategies, such as enhancing habitat connectivity and habitat restoration should be immediately implemented to retain the extant genetic variation and maintain long-term evolutionary potential of this endangered species. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.

Zhang Z.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Zhang Z.,San Diego Zoos Institute for Conservation Research | Zhang Z.,China West Normal University | Swaisgood R.R.,San Diego Zoos Institute for Conservation Research | And 4 more authors.
Biology Letters | Year: 2011

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are an iconic conservation species, but despite significant research effort, do we understand what they really need? Estimating and mapping suitable habitat play a critical role in conservation planning and policy. But if assumptions about ecological needs are wrong, maps with misidentified suitable habitat willmisguide conservation action. Here, we use an information-theoretic approach to analyse the largest, landscape-level dataset on panda habitat use to date, and challenge the prevailing wisdom about panda habitat needs. We show that pandas are associated with old-growth forest more than with any ecological variable other than bamboo. Other factors traditionally used in panda habitat models, such as topographic slope, are less important. We suggest that our findings are disparate from previous research in part because our research was conducted over a larger ecological scale than previous research conducted over more circumscribed areas within individual reserves. Thus, extrapolating from habitat studies on small scales to conservation planning on large scales may entail some risk. As the Chinese government is considering the renewal of its logging ban, it should take heed of the panda's dependency on old growth. © 2010 The Royal Society.

Wu H.,CAS Institute of Zoology | Wu H.,Central China Normal University | Zhang S.-N.,China Wildlife Conservation Association | Wei F.-W.,CAS Institute of Zoology
Conservation Genetics | Year: 2010

Since the number and range of Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) are declining due to habitat loss and illegal trade, it is essential to take effective actions to reinforce the conservation of the remaining bear populations. In order to aid such conservation efforts, we developed 12 novel polymorphic microsatellite loci of Asiatic black bear from genomic DNA-enriched libraries in this paper. The number of alleles per locus in 24 individuals ranged from 3 to 10, the average observed heterozygosity per locus from 0. 214 to 0. 950, and the average expected heterozygosity per locus from 0. 243 to 0. 891. Eight loci followed Hardy-Weinberg expectations after Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons. No significant linkage association was found among all these loci. The 12 polymorphic microsatellite loci will be helpful to the conservation of the Asiatic black bear. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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