Does one size fit all? A multispecies approach to regional landscape corridor planning

Journal or Book Title: Diversity and Distributions

Keywords: giant panda; conservation planning; movement corridor; umbrella species; biodiversity; species co-occurrence

Year Published: 2017

Abstract:

Aim
The practical value of the single species approach to conserve biodiversity could be minimal or negligible when sympatric species are limited by factors that are not relevant to the proposed umbrella species. In this paper, we quantitatively evaluated: (1) habitat suitability and potential movement corridors of a single umbrella species, giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca); (2) habitat suitability of sympatric mammals; and (3) the potential effectiveness of the single species corridor planning to preserve suitable habitat and its connectivity of other focal species.

Location
Qinling Mountains, central part of China (15,000 km2).

Methods
We collected species distribution, environmental and anthropogenic data, and conducted species occupancy modelling for giant panda and six other sympatric species (i.e. takin Budorcas taxicolor, tufted deer Elaphodus cephalophus, Chinese goral Naemorhedus griseus, Reeve’s muntjac Muntiacus reevesi, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis, and yellow-throated marten Martes flavigula). We then conducted circuit models to identify potential corridors for each species, and evaluated the effectiveness of giant panda corridors to restore the habitat connectivity for these sympatric mammals.

Results
Occupancy modelling revealed that each species had a unique set of environmental variables associated with its distribution in the Qinling Mountains. We found that giant panda and all other focal species had some degree of fragmentation to their suitable habitat that required restoring habitat connectivity. Among the eight potential giant panda corridors, conservation efforts to reduce anthropogenic impacts would significantly improve the effectiveness of six corridors, while the other two corridors would require altering the vegetation. Five proposed giant panda corridors had remarkable overlap with corridors proposed for other species. We suggest two giant panda corridors as a priority due to their potential to maximize the benefits to both giant panda and a broader suite of mammals.

Main conclusions
Corridor planning in this region of China will likely continue using the single species policy, but our results highlight that not all potential giant panda corridors have equal effectiveness for other wildlife species. When offered multiple alternative actions, conservation planners can prioritize corridor development based on a multi-species perspective without loss of connectivity for the priority species. This approach has strong implications to the conservation of wildlife communities in China, and elsewhere, where conservation plans developed for a single species garner most available funding and institutional support. 

DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12692

Type of Publication: Journal Article

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