Giant panda conservation, worth billions

This January 2017 video says about itself:

IT’S A PANDAFUL LIFE! How China is saving the giant panda from extinction

The panda breeding centre in Chengdu employs highly qualified Chinese and international specialists. The pandas live safely here and are provided with conditions conducive to successful procreation and cubs are taken care of to ensure they survive. …

All that hard work eventually bore fruit. In September 2016, the Giant Panda was taken off the endangered species list; a significant achievement for the conservationists who have spent over half a century saving the black and white wonder. It also offers hope to all animal specialists who are working hard to conserve other critically endangered animals. However, pandas are not completely out of the woods yet; they still have to be able to breed in the woods without being killed by poachers or losing their food to deforestation.

From ScienceDaily:

What’s giant panda conservation worth? Billions every year, study shows

June 28, 2018

In China, the giant panda is clearly a cultural icon. And yet panda conservation, and the panda itself, is often criticized because of the associated cost. But an analysis reported in Current Biology on June 28 shows that panda conservation has great value that extends far beyond protection of pandas themselves.

According to the new findings, the panda’s protection as an umbrella species yields 10 to 27 times as much value as it costs to maintain the current reserves. In fact, the findings suggest it might be worth expanding those panda reserves and other investments in natural capital in China.

“Many detractors have argued that spending valuable resources on panda conservation is wasteful”, says Fuwen Wei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Our analysis contradicts this view and demonstrates clearly the great value of the panda, both for its cultural and intrinsic value and for the ecosystem services provided by panda reserves.”

Between 1990 and 2010 China’s National Conservation Project for the Giant Panda and Its Habitat (NCPGPH) doubled panda habitat. By 2010, a total of 67 panda reserves with an area of more than 33,000 km2 had been established, covering more than half of suitable panda habitat.

The question in the new study was: what is that worth? To find out, Wei and colleagues used the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services framework. Ecosystem services include three parts: provisioning services, regulatory services, and culture. Panda reserves offer a variety of provisioning services that are valued by local people such as growing crops, grazing animals, procuring water supplies, and harvesting firewood and useful plants. Important regulatory services include the hydrologic benefits of managing precipitated water runoff, sediment retention, carbon sequestration, nutrient retention, and more.

To explore the value of pandas and their reserves, the researchers reviewed each of the regulating, provisioning, and cultural services associated with panda reserves, collating estimates of the value of each from numerous studies. They then converted all those estimates to US dollars and used the median value for each to generate a combined estimate of the annual per-hectare value of panda reserves. That exercise led them to a median estimate of US$632 per hectare per year.

After multiplying that per hectare per year value by estimates of forest area within the 67 panda reserves, they came to a value of US$562 million per year in 1980. By 2010, the value of ecosystem services of the panda and its reserves had increased to somewhere between US$2.6 and US$6.9 billion per year.

“Now, we know that the system of reserves and protections [for pandas] are working to reverse the panda’s decline and that these efforts have benefits for society and nature at large,” Wei says. “This should provide added motivation for people to continue backing panda conservation to bring about the eventual recovery of the species.”

The researchers say that this encouraging news provides justification not just for efforts to preserve the panda, but for other endangered species as well.

This work was funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Creative Research Group Project of NSFC, and the Sichuan Forest Department and State Forestry Administration.

Scientists report results of a large-scale study examining giant panda habitat use trends and changing threats to their survival. This benchmark study is based on nearly 70,000 person-hours of survey work by China’s State Forestry Administration throughout the panda’s range in Sichuan, covering three-quarters of the entire species range: here.

6 thoughts on “Giant panda conservation, worth billions

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