Binbin Li, assistant professor at the Environmental Research Center of Duke Kunshan University received a grant (HK$ 3,868,000 ) from the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong to study the effects of livestock grazing on giant panda habitat and evaluation of potential solutions.
The loss and fragmentation of giant panda habitat is a major threat to the protection of giant pandas in recent years. There is always grazing in the distribution area of giant pandas. However, after natural forests logging are banned and “Grain for Green” program was initiated, residents in surrounding communities can no longer obtain economic benefits from forest harvesting and cultivation, and grazing is becoming more and more serious. The third and fourth National Giant Panda Surveys have found that grazing has become the most widespread human disturbance in the habitat of giant pandas. For giant pandas, it has obvious avoidance to grazing habitats. Grazing takes up the living space of giant pandas, causing damage to bamboo growth through foraging and trampling, thus reducing the use of grazing habitats by giant pandas. The study found that stocking livestock use bamboo as a main food source, causing large areas of panda habitat to degenerate or even disappear, which may aggravate the fragmentation of giant panda habitat and the negative impact of climate change on giant panda habitat. As one of the most effective umbrella species in the world, giant pandas also shelter many Chinese forest-specific species, and 96% of the panda habitat coincides with the distribution center of China's forest-specific species. Therefore, solving the problem of understory grazing for giant panda protection is not only beneficial to giant panda but also beneficial to the survival and protection of other endemic species.
This study attempts to identify changes of giant panda habitat use in China and interpret grazing characteristics of severely affected areas due to grazing effects in the past ten years through field work (infrared camera monitoring, small animal surveys and plant surveys, etc.) and data analysis., then try to determine the carrying capacity of livestock under the forest. Through economic surveys, we can determine the compensation mechanisms and amounts needed to reduce livestock or forbidden grazing, explore feasibility and promote consensus on solutions. In addition, through a questionnaire interview with various stakeholders (Villagers, different parts of the government, tourism companies, researchers, NGOs, etc.) and training on protection methods for community residents, a vertical integrated community participatory protection toolbox will be established. It is used to integrate ecological, economic, social, and cultural legal factors to analyze conflicts of interest related to grazing in giant panda habitats, identify alternative livelihoods for the purpose of protecting giant panda habitat, and ultimately establish community-based participatory protection methods.
Prof. Binbin Li, Prof. Kathinka Furst and Prof. Moon Joon Kim, during their field trip at Wanglang National Nature Reserve. Researchers from Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong also visited Wanglang area.