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Shen X.,Peking University | Shen X.,CAS Institute of Botany | Li S.,Peking University | Wang D.,Peking University | And 2 more authors.
Conservation Biology

The Tibetan sacred mountains (TSMs) cover a large area and may represent a landscape-scale conservation opportunity. We compared the conservation value of forests in these mountains with the conservation value of government-established nature reserves and unmanaged open-access areas in Danba County, southwestern China. We used Landsat satellite images to map forest cover and to estimate forest loss in 1974-1989, 1989-1999, and 1999-2013. The TSMs (n = 41) and nature reserves (n = 4) accounted for 21.6% and 29.7% of the county's land area, respectively. Remaining land was open-access areas (i.e., areas without any restrictions on resource use) (56.2%) and farmlands (2.2%). Within the elevation range suitable for forests, forest cover did not differ significantly between nature reserves (58.8%) and open-access areas (58.4%), but was significantly higher in TSMs (65.5%) after controlling for environmental factors such as aspect, slope, and elevation. The TSMs of great cultural importance had higher forest cover, but patrols by monastery staff were not necessarily associated with increased forest cover. The annual deforestation rate in nonsacred areas almost tripled in 1989-1999 (111.4 ha/year) relative to 1974-1989 (40.4 ha/year), whereas the rate in TSMs decreased in the later period (19.7 ha/year vs. 17.2 ha/year). The reduced forest loss in TSMs in 1989-1999 was possibly due to the renaissance of TSM worship and strengthened management by the local Buddhist community since late 1980s. The annual deforestation rate in Danba decreased dramatically to 4.4 ha/year in 1999-2013, which coincided with the implementation of a national ban on logging in 1998. As the only form of protected area across the Tibetan region during much of its history, TSMs have positively contributed to conserving forest at a landscape scale. Conservation of TSM forests largely relied on the strength of local religious institutions. Integrating community-based conservation of TSMs within the government conservation network would benefit the conservation of the Tibetan region. © 2015, Society for Conservation Biology. Source

Stefanski S.F.,Yale University | Stefanski S.F.,Duke University | Shi X.,Yale University | Shi X.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | And 3 more authors.
Forest Policy and Economics

Reforestation and forest conservation are important issues in the Panama Canal Watershed (PCW). Uncertainty remains about relative net benefits of profit-maximizing timber rotations compared to the net present value of incumbent land uses such as cattle ranching. The scientific and popular literatures have displayed enthusiasm for teak (Tectona grandis) and native species plantations. We estimate a realistic yield model for teak, an exotic tree species, based on growth data from actual small scale landholders who were incentivized to convert lands to teak plantations. We use a suite of well fit yield models to solve for the optimal Faustmann rotation and compute the net present value (NPV) of a teak plantation to a private land manager as a starting point for understanding land-use patterns. We compare the NPV from forestry to cattle and find that site characteristics, discount rates, and market prices are all important factors in influencing the land manager's decision to switch from cattle ranching to plantation forestry. We find that traditional cattle ranching is economically competitive, in terms of NPV, with and may often outperform teak plantations within the PCW. This result is robust to the teak yield model selected. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. Source

Shen X.,Peking University | Shen X.,Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute | Li S.,Peking University | Chen N.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | And 4 more authors.
Biological Conservation

A positive relationship between traditional cultures and biodiversity exists worldwide, but when traditional and formal conservation institutions coexist, how they interact and affect biodiversity remains poorly studied. From 2005 to 2007, we studied the relationship between Tibetan traditional practices and biodiversity. Specifically, how traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and scientific ecological knowledge (SEK) affect local biodiversity by affecting people's attitudes and behaviors towards conservation. We interviewed 331 villagers in nine Tibetan villages in Sichuan Province, China. We used proxy questions to measure the traditional practices, TEK, SEK, conservation attitudes and behaviors of village residents. Meanwhile, we assessed the bird diversity around the villages by stratified sampling and point counts. The results indicate traditional practices exhibited a strong positive correlation with TEK, but a negative correlation with formal education and SEK. The villagers with high traditional practices had more positive attitudes towards conservation and more actively participated in conservation than villagers with low traditional practices, and villagers with medium traditional practices were the least concerned about, or participated in, conservation activities. Bird species richness, abundance, and the Shannon-Wiener diversity index were positively correlated with the traditional practice index of each village. The results of a negative binomial regression showed the traditional practice index was a positive correlative factor of bird species richness, while formal education was not a significant variable, after controlling for other potential sampling and environment factors. Government-sponsored conservation education was somewhat successful in raising people's environmental awareness, but these efforts have yet to correlate with enhanced biodiversity measures. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Li J.,Peking University | Wang D.,Peking University | Yin H.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | Zhaxi D.,Qinghai Snowland Great Rivers Environmental Protection Association | And 12 more authors.
Conservation Biology

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) inhabits the rugged mountains in 12 countries of Central Asia, including the Tibetan Plateau. Due to poaching, decreased abundance of prey, and habitat degradation, it was listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1972. Current conservation strategies, including nature reserves and incentive programs, have limited capacities to protect snow leopards. We investigated the role of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in snow leopard conservation in the Sanjiangyuan region in China's Qinghai Province on the Tibetan Plateau. From 2009 to 2011, we systematically surveyed snow leopards in the Sanjiangyuan region. We used the MaxEnt model to determine the relation of their presence to environmental variables (e.g., elevation, ruggedness) and to predict snow leopard distribution. Model results showed 89,602 km2 of snow leopard habitat in the Sanjiangyuan region, of which 7674 km2 lay within Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve's core zones. We analyzed the spatial relation between snow leopard habitat and Buddhist monasteries and found that 46% of monasteries were located in snow leopard habitat and 90% were within 5 km of snow leopard habitat. The 336 monasteries in the Sanjiangyuan region could protect more snow leopard habitat (8342 km2) through social norms and active patrols than the nature reserve's core zones. We conducted 144 household interviews to identify local herders' attitudes and behavior toward snow leopards and other wildlife. Most local herders claimed that they did not kill wildlife, and 42% said they did not kill wildlife because it was a sin in Buddhism. Our results indicate monasteries play an important role in snow leopard conservation. Monastery-based snow leopard conservation could be extended to other Tibetan Buddhist regions that in total would encompass about 80% of the global range of snow leopards. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology. Source

Li J.,Peking University | Yin H.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | Wang D.,Peking University | Jiagong Z.,Shan Shui Conservation Center | And 2 more authors.
Biological Conservation

Conflicts between humans and snow leopards are documented across much of their overlapping distribution in Central Asia. These conflicts manifest themselves primarily in the form of livestock depredation and the killing of snow leopards by local herders. This source of mortality to snow leopards is a key conservation concern. To investigate human-snow leopard conflicts in the Sanjiangyuan Region of the Tibetan Plateau, we conducted household interviews about local herders' traditional use of snow leopard parts, livestock depredation, and overall attitudes towards snow leopards. We found most respondents (58%) knew that snow leopard parts had been used for traditional customs in the past, but they claimed not in the past two or three decades. It may be partly due to the issuing of the Protection of Wildlife Law in 1998 by the People's Republic of China. Total livestock losses were damaging (US$ 6193 per household in the past 1. year), however snow leopards were blamed by herders for only a small proportion of those losses (10%), as compared to wolves (45%) and disease (42%). Correspondingly, the cultural images of snow leopards were neutral (78%) and positive (9%) on the whole. It seems that human-snow leopard conflict is not intense in this area. However, snow leopards could be implicated by the retaliatory killing of wolves. We recommend a multi-pronged conservation program that includes compensation, insurance programs, and training local veterinarians to reduce livestock losses. © 2013. Source

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