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Zoning boundaries can make good neighbors in conservation
Date:10/28/2011

them.

Wolong, like many nature reserves across the globe, is home to both animals and people. Increasingly, governments are turning to zoning ordinances to protect habitat while still allowing people access to a livelihood. People in Wolong historically have farmed, chopped down trees for fuel and construction, kept livestock and accommodated the tourists who stream in to see the beloved pandas in breeding centers.

Pandas are picky about their habitat needing gentle slops, moderate elevation and plenty of bamboo to munch. While other species that contribute to Wolong's rich biodiversity benefit from conservation efforts, the charismatic pandas drive much of the policy there.

Wolong has been zoned into three areas: The "core" area strictly limits human activity to limit human impact on pandas. The "experimental" area thrives with homes, businesses and roads. In between is a "buffer zone" of limited human access intended to acknowledge that it's hard to declare a forest pristine if a hotel is right next door.

To understand how the zoning is working out, Hull and Liu, her mentor, CSIS director and Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, joined with colleagues to compile a broad range of data. Liu's previous work on panda habitat classification, a national giant panda census, geographic data on locations of roads and human establishments, and new data on movements of individual pandas and livestock are combined to create an unusually robust look at the effectiveness of zoning.

Two female pandas Mei-Mei and Pan-Pan fitted by Hull and collaborators with GPS collars, provided new insight on how pandas move about.

The result is a way to breathe life into policy and provide a novel look that goes beyond theory. Hull said that zoning in Wolong is protecting some, but not all prime panda real estate. The study also is helping show where improvements are needed. Including:

  • Much of the buffer zone is impor
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Contact: Sue Nichols
nichols@msu.edu
517-432-0206
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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