Quantifying landscape linkages among giant panda subpopulations in regional scale conservation


Correspondence: Fuwen Wei, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1–5 Beichenxi Road, Chaoyang, Beijing 100101, China.
Email: weifw@ioz.ac.cn


Understanding habitat requirements and identifying landscape linkages are essential for the survival of isolated populations of endangered species. Currently, some of the giant panda populations are isolated, which threatens their long-term survival, particularly in the Xiaoxiangling mountains. In the present study, we quantified niche requirements and then identified potential linkages of giant panda subpopulations in the most isolated region, using ecological niche factor analysis and a least-cost path model. Giant pandas preferred habitat with conifer forest and gentle slopes (>20 to ≤30°). Based on spatial distribution of suitable habitat, linkages were identified for the Yele subpopulation to 4 other subpopulations (Liziping, Matou, Xinmin and Wanba). Their lengths ranged from 15 to 54 km. The accumulated cost ranged from 693 to 3166 and conifer forest covered over 31%. However, a variety of features (e.g. major roads, human settlements and large unforested areas) might act as barriers along the linkages for giant panda dispersal. Our analysis quantified giant panda subpopulation connectivity to ensure long-term survival.