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PubMed | Yunnan University, Yunnan Academy of Forestry and Institute of Yunnan Forestry Inventory and Planning
Type: | Journal: Scientific reports | Year: 2016

Protecting wilderness areas (WAs) is a crucial proactive approach to sustain biodiversity. However, studies identifying local-scale WAs for on-ground conservation efforts are still very limited. This paper investigated the spatial patterns of wilderness in a global biodiversity hotspot - Three Parallel Rivers Region (TPRR) in southwest China. Wilderness was classified into levels 1 to 10 based on a cluster analysis of five indicators, namely human population density, naturalness, fragmentation, remoteness, and ruggedness. Only patches characterized by wilderness level 1 and 1.0km(2) were considered WAs. The wilderness levels in the northwest were significantly higher than those in the southeast, and clearly increased with the increase in elevation. The WAs covered approximately 25% of TPRRs land, 89.3% of which was located in the >3,000m elevation zones. WAs consisted of 20 vegetation types, among which temperate conifer forest, cold temperate shrub and alpine ecosystems covered 79.4% of WAs total area. Most WAs were still not protected yet by existing reserves. Topography and human activities are the primary influencing factors on the spatial patterns of wilderness. We suggest establishing strictly protected reserves for most large WAs, while some sustainable management approaches might be more optimal solutions for many highly fragmented small WAs.

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