Xishuangbanna is part of the Indo-Myanmar tropical biodiversity hotspot and contains a significant number of rare and endangered plants (REPs) which are a key component of biodiversity, and their existence indicates healthy ecosystem services. Some protected areas (PAs) have been established here for biodiversity conservation. However, no previous study has assessed the effectiveness of these protected PAs, especially for conservation of REPs.
In a study published in Science of The Total Environment, researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) tried to assess the effectiveness of existing PAs in conserving rare and endangered plants and put forward suggestions for future conservation strategies.
The researchers used the maximum entropy (Maxent) model to identify potential habitats of REPs in Xishuangbanna. By comparing modeled hotspots of REPs with existing PAs, they performed gap analysis to assess the effectiveness of existing PAs.
Their analysis showed that the eight existing nature reserves in Xishuangbanna only currently covered 35.85% of REPs hotspots, and the remaining 64.15% of the hotspots lie outside the PAs, without any conservation measures. The modeling then showed that the conservation gap would increase to 67.74% by 2050, and it is likely to increase further over time.
“The existing PAs are thus not effective in protecting REPs, and immediate measures are needed,” said Dr. BAI Yang, correspondence author of the study.
Using current land use and land cover data, the researchers extracted land use and land cover corresponding to the hotspots of REPs. They found that Xishuangbanna’s REPs have been seriously affected by human land use, with expansion of artificial plantations and agricultural land being the main reasons for loss of habitat. The transfer matrix showed that there will be a future shift between different potential habitats.
“Therefore, it is critical to develop dynamic conservation strategies in the face of climate change, and significant to protect habitats of rare and endangered plants in Xishuangbanna and other regions,” said the researchers.
BAI Yang Ph.D
Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China