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Genetic consequences of historical anthropogenic and ecological events on giant pandas

Zhu, Lifeng, Hu, Yibo, Qi, Dunwu, Wu, Hua, Zhan, Xiangjiang, Zhang, Zhejun, Bruford, Michael William, Wang, Jinliang, Yang, Xuyu, Gu, Xiaodong, Zhang, Lei, Zhang, Baowei, Zhang, Shanning and Wei, Fuwen 2013. Genetic consequences of historical anthropogenic and ecological events on giant pandas. Ecology 94 (10) , pp. 2346-2357. 10.1890/12-1451.1

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The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) was taken to the brink of extinction in the 1980s through a combination of deforestation, large-scale loss of bamboo in the core of its range, poaching, and zoo collection, causing over 1000 deaths from the 1950s. It was thought that the drastic population decline was likely to impose a severe impact on population viability. Here, based on temporal genotyping of individuals, we show that this rapid decline did not significantly reduce the overall effective population size and genetic variation of this species, or of the two focal populations (Minshan and Qionglai) that declined the most. These results are contrary to previously assumptions, probably because the population decline has not produced the expected negative impact due to the short time scale involved (at most 10 generations), or because previous surveys underestimated the population size at the time of decline. However, if present-day habitat fragmentation and limited migration of giant pandas remains, we predict a loss of genetic diversity across the giant pandas' range in the near future. Thus, our findings highlight the substantial resilience of this species when facing demographic and environmental stochasticity, but key conservation strategies, such as enhancing habitat connectivity and habitat restoration should be immediately implemented to retain the extant genetic variation and maintain long-term evolutionary potential of this endangered species.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ailuropoda melanoleuca, anthropogenic effects, bamboo flowering, effective population size, endangered species, genetic diversity, giant panda, habitat loss, poaching, population decline
ISSN: 0012-9658
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 08:05

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