EAST LANSING, Mich. - The way to panda extinction may be paved on good intentions, a Michigan State study published in Science shows.
Panda habitat is being destroyed quicker inside the world's most high profile protected nature reserve than in adjacent areas of China that are not protected. Moreover, the rates of destruction were higher after the reserve was established than before the reserve's creation, says Jianguo Liu, an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife at MSU.
"Some people may think about human destruction intuitively," Liu said. "Our research integrates humans into the equation because human destruction is the most critical factor in the fate of the pandas. If biodiversity cannot be protected in protected areas, where can we protect biodiversity?"
MSU researchers and their collaborators in China did a unique 32-year analysis of the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, southwestern China. Using both data from a recently declassified spy satellite and NASA's Landsat satellites as well as information about the human settlements in the preserve, the research team paints a vivid picture of why years of protected status have meant less panda-friendly living in the reserve.
Only about 1,000 giant pandas remain in the wild. About 10 percent of these live in the Wolong reserve. Created in 1975, the reserve is a flagship effort to preserve and protect biodiversity in important natural regions - a movement that has led to nearly 9 percent of the earth's land surface being designated as protected.
Panda preservation has been a highly popular and publicized effort. The reserve has received considerable financial support from the Chinese government and international organizations, such as the World Wildlife Fund.