The impact of giant panda foraging on bamboo dynamics in an isolated environment

Author(s):

Vanessa Hull; Ashton Shortridge, Bin Liu, Scott Bearer, Shiqiang Zhou, Hemin Zhang, Zhiyun Ouyang; Jianguo "Jack" Liu

Journal or Book Title: Plant Ecology

Keywords: Habitat fragmentation and isolation, Giant panda, Bamboo, Foraging, Wildlife, Vegetation

Volume/Issue: 212

Page Number(s): 43-54

Year Published: 2010

Abstract:

Wildlife species are threatened by massive habitat destruction worldwide. Habitat fragmentation and isolation spatially constrain animals and in turn cause non-sustainable rates of animal foraging on plant populations. However, little empirical research has been done in large controlled settings to investigate foraging impacts. We conducted an experiment to characterize the impact of panda foraging on the sustainability of its food resource, bamboo, in an enclosed area of natural habitat (approximately 19 ha). We monitored bamboo density, age, and percent cover throughout the enclosure across a 3-year period. We documented marked declines in bamboo density and percent cover as a result of panda foraging, particularly in younger bamboo age classes. We constructed simultaneous autoregressive models to explain bamboo loss to panda foraging and subsequent bamboo recovery as a function of habitat conditions. Areas with high initial bamboo cover not only were prone to high rates of bamboo percent cover loss but also  experienced high rates of subsequent bamboo recovery, as bamboo cover loss opened up the understory for new growth. Variograms of ordinary least squares model residuals revealed that the range of spatial  autocorrelation in bamboo loss increased over time as available bamboo forage declined. The results have implications for understanding the impact of animal foraging on vegetation and also highlight the importance of preventing further habitat fragmentation and isolation.

DOI: 10.1007/s11258-010-9800-3

Type of Publication: Journal Article

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