Biodiversity Science ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (9): 943-950.doi: 10.17520/biods.2019014

• Special Feature: Snow Leopards: Survey, Research and Conservation Status in China • Previous Article     Next Article

Defining conservation priority areas of snow leopard habitat in the Sanjiangyuan Region

Lingyun Xiao1, #, Chen Cheng1, 2, ##, Huawei Wan3, Dehai Zhang4, Yongcai Wang3, Tsedan 5, Peng Hou3, Juan Li6, Xin Yang7, Zhi Lü1, *(), Yuping Liu3, *()   

  1. 1 Center for Nature and Society, College of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871
    2 Shan Shui Conservation Center, Beijing 100871
    3 Center for Satellite Application on Ecology and Environment, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Beijing 100094
    4 Management Bureau of the Three-River-Source National Park, Xining 810001
    5 Forestry Bureau of Yushu Prefecture, Yushu, Qinghai 815000
    6 Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3114, USA
    7 Sichuan Green River Environmental Protection Promotion Association, Chengdu 610041
  • Received:2019-01-18 Accepted:2019-05-23 Online:2019-09-25
  • Lingyun Xiao,Chen Cheng,Zhi Lü,Yuping Liu;

To maximize species conservation outcomes and effectively allocate limited resources, the first step in conservation planning is to define conservation priority areas and migration pathways between them. Based on field survey and high-resolution satellite data, we used species distribution models, conservation planning tools and connectivity analysis tools to define the core habitat area and potential corridors for snow leopards (Panthera uncia) in the Sanjiangyuan Region. With potential threats identified, we proposed differentiated conservation strategies for different parts of the Sanjiangyuan Region: (1) In the western region, snow leopard core habitats are mostly small and fragmented but with widespread migration pathways and no obvious bottlenecks. However, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is a potential barrier for snow leopard populations in the western region and needs further investigation. (2) The central region contains the largest core habitat which also has highest centrality in the connectivity analysis. To maintain the function of these source populations, we recommend long-term monitoring, anti-poaching patrol and supervision on development projects for this region. (3) For the eastern region, which has the highest human density, it is important to safeguard two core habitats (Anemaqen and Nanpo Yutze) and maintain the narrow corridors in between them. The provincial highway in Gande County may be a potential barrier for snow leopard migration and deserves further monitoring. As the epicenter for snow leopard conservation in China, the habitat quality in the Sanjiangyuan Region remains good overall. The goal of snow leopard landscape conservation in Sanjiangyuan should be to maintain core source populations while keeping migration routes unblocked. Integrated space-ground monitoring approaches should be implemented in the future for assessments and early warning signs of habitat degradation for these important protected species, especially in non-protected areas in core habitat at risk for development.

Key words: snow leopard, habitat, high-resolution satellite data, conservation priority, dispersal corridor

Fig. 1

The 220 presence locations of snow leopards after spatial thinning in Sanjiangyuan Region"

Fig. 2

The distribution of human activity patches (a) and roads (b) in Sanjiangyuan Region. This study mainly concerned on densely populated areas (cities and towns, airports and schools), energy facilities, mining and industry land, quarry and scattered rural settlements. Roads were classified as ordinary roads and busy roads (expressways, national highways, provincial highways and railways)."

Fig. 3

Snow leopard habitat suitability (a) and potential habitat (b) in Sanjiangyuan Region"

Fig. 4

Priority ranking of snow leopard habitat in Sanjiangyuan Region"

Fig. 5

The change of snow leopard core habitat before (yellow) and after (green) adding anthropogenic variables"

Fig. 6

The centrality of snow leopard core habitat, connectivity pinchpoints and busy roads as potential barriers. A, B: Two candidate corridors linking two eastern core habitats and the central core habitat."

Fig. 7

The coverage of national nature reserves (NNR) and national park (NP) in snow leopard core habitat. Development projects are mostly outside nature reserves and national park, which should be intensively monitored with high-resolution satellite in the future."

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