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A study by Chinese and U.S. scientists finds that while populations of the iconic giant panda have increased recently, the species' habitat still covers less area and is more fragmented than when it was first listed as an endangered species in 1988.
The study, published Sept. 25 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, used geospatial technologies and remote sensing data to map recent land-use changes and the development of roads within the panda's habitat.
International - Union - Conservation - Nature - IUCN
"The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently changed the status of the giant panda from 'endangered' to the less threatened 'vulnerable,' " said Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. "This was based on the increasing numbers, which are a very encouraging sign, of course."
"But what my colleagues and I wanted to know was how the panda's habitat has changed over the last four decades, because the extent and connectivity of a species' habitat is also a major factor in determining its risk of extinction," Pimm said.
Team - Zhuyan - Ouyang - Weihua - Xu
The team, led by Zhuyan Ouyang and Weihua Xu of the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, used satellite imagery to examine changes across the panda's entire geographic range from 1976 to 2013.
"We found complex changes," Xu said. "Habitat decreased nearly 5 percent from 1976 to 2001, but has increased since. However, the average size of the habitat patches decreased by 23 percent from 1976 to...
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