China's endemic vertebrates sheltering under the protective umbrella of the giant panda
The giant panda attracts disproportionate conservation resources. How well does this emphasis protect other endemic species? Detailed data on geographical ranges are not available for plants or invertebrates, so we restrict our analyses to 3 vertebrate taxa: birds, mammals, and amphibians. There are gaps in their protection, and we recommend practical actions to fill them. We identified patterns of species richness, then identified which species are endemic to China, and then which, like the panda, live in forests. After refining each species' range by its known elevational range and remaining forest habitats as determined from remote sensing, we identified the top 5% richest areas as the centers of endemism. Southern mountains, especially the eastern Hengduan Mountains, were centers for all 3 taxa. Over 96% of the panda habitat overlapped the endemic centers. Thus, investing in almost any panda habitat will benefit many other endemics. Existing panda national nature reserves cover all but one of the endemic species that overlap with the panda's distribution. Of particular interest are 14 mammal, 20 bird, and 82 amphibian species that are inadequately protected. Most of these species the International Union for Conservation of Nature currently deems threatened. But 7 mammal, 3 bird, and 20 amphibian species are currently nonthreatened, yet their geographical ranges are <20,000 km2 after accounting for elevational restriction and remaining habitats. These species concentrate mainly in Sichuan, Yunnan, Nan Mountains, and Hainan. There is a high concentration in the east Daxiang and Xiaoxiang Mountains of Sichuan, where pandas are absent and where there are no national nature reserves. The others concentrate in Yunnan, Nan Mountains, and Hainan. Here, 10 prefectures might establish new protected areas or upgrade local nature reserves to national status.
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