Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 22342.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022342

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Habitat use of the North China leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) in the Liupanshan Mountains and its implications for conservation planning

Shuanggui Wang1, Zhihong Guo1, Bojian Gu2, Tianti Li3, Yubing Su1, Bocheng Ma1, Hongxin Guan1, Qiaowen Huang3, Fang Wang2,*(), Zhuojin Zhang2,*()   

  1. 1. Ningxia Guyuan Liupanshan Forestry Bureau, Guyuan, Ningxia 756400
    2. Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Ecological Engineering of Ministry of Education, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433
    3. Chinese Felid Conservation Alliance, Beijing 101121
  • Received:2022-06-21 Accepted:2022-09-22 Online:2022-09-20 Published:2022-09-28
  • Contact: Fang Wang,Zhuojin Zhang


Aims: Large carnivores play important roles in ecosystem functions yet are globally threatened and require urgent research and conservation actions. The North China leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis) is a leopard subspecies that is endemic to China. It is the only remaining large carnivore in many forest ecosystems in northern China, and the North China leopard facing severe threats such as habitat degradation and fragmentation. This study aims to assess the habitat use of North China leopards in the Liupanshan Mountains.
Methods: This study was conducted in the Liupanshan Mountains. Infrared cameras were used to survey North China leopard distribution. We constructed occupancy models to analyze species habitat use. Based on species-environmental associations obtained from occupancy modeling, we identified suitable habitat patches, measured species association with human interference, and evaluated habitat fragmentation patterns.
Results: Occupancy modeling revealed that North China leopards occupied habitat patches with mature forest in ragged terrain. The occurrence probability was high in landscapes that were distant from croplands and roads, but the species did not demonstrate significant avoidance to farmland edges and residential areas. We identified 35 suitable habitat patches that were primarily distributed along the east and west ridges of the Liupanshan Mountains. The largest suitable habitat patch had an area of 214 km2, and the average area of suitable habitat patches were 16 km2. Approximately 55% of all suitable habitat patches were located within the Liupanshan National Nature Reserve boundary.
Conclusions: The primary conclusion of this study is that while the Liupanshan National Nature Reserve effectively conserves existing suitable habitat of North China leopards, the risks of habitat fragmentation and anthropogenic interference still exist. We suggest conservation actions such as habitat capacity building and a restriction of anthropogenic activity in protected area be taken to ensure the long-term persistence of North China leopards. Conservation efforts beyond provincial boundaries should be reinforced to promote the dispersal of North China leopards as well as population recovery. This study fills in the knowledge gaps left by the North China leopards ecological study in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and has the potential to support conservation planning in the Liupanshan Mountains as well as other regions.

Key words: North China leopard, habitat use, camera trap, habitat fragmentation, occupancy model