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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 108752, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/108752
Research Article

Modeling Impacts of Climate Change on Giant Panda Habitat

1Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA
2Geography Department, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

Received 14 September 2011; Accepted 19 December 2011

Academic Editor: A. E. Lugo

Copyright © 2012 Melissa Songer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are one of the most widely recognized endangered species globally. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the main threats, and climate change could significantly impact giant panda survival. We integrated giant panda habitat information with general climate models (GCMs) to predict future geographic distribution and fragmentation of giant panda habitat. Results support a major general prediction of climate change—a shift of habitats towards higher elevation and higher latitudes. Our models predict climate change could reduce giant panda habitat by nearly 60% over 70 years. New areas may become suitable outside the current geographic range but much of these areas is far from the current giant panda range and only 15% fall within the current protected area system. Long-term survival of giant pandas will require the creation of new protected areas that are likely to support suitable habitat even if the climate changes.