Conserving pandas can boost biodiversity, fight climate change

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Panda is not an adorable animal, but a study has found that conserving them can also boost biodiversity and fight climate change.

The study points to a path going beyond pandas to even more benefits of conservation.

“Sometimes unintended consequences can be happy ones – and give us ways to do even better as we work toward sustainability,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu from Michigan State University in East Lansing, US.

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“Pandas are leading us to even greater ways to care for nature and health of humans and the planet,” Liu added.

What Viña and Liu discovered that due to the panda’s slow metabolism and limited diet — bamboo is lacking in nutritional density — the species need vast amounts of forest to survive.

“Reserves are created thinking about the pandas – but we wanted to see if they provide more benefits than just the pandas,” said another researcher Andres Viña.

The forests inside reserves and in areas outside the reserves’ borders, are providing critical canopy materials – the leaves and branches – that soak up carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.

The findings indicated that forests outside of reserves are often growing faster than in the reserves. But that isn’t a downfall of reserves, Viña said.

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Viña said that in the future it would be good to allow more spacing between planted trees and include different varieties to allow for more robust forests.

The researchers also discovered that forests in lower elevations – areas not generally targeted for panda habitat – are not being protected in the same way.

“We are seeing efforts that are moving in the right direction and showing positive results for nature and for humans,” Viña stated.

“Now it’s time to continue those efforts and fine tune them to continue to get even more benefits,” Viña concluded.

The study is published in  the journal ‘Ecosphere’.