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The possible nutritional consequences for giant panda of establishing reserve corridors with various bamboo species

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Efforts to conserve pandas in China now concentrate on providing a large enough contiguous reserve to ensure food sufficiency. Fragmented reserves are to be joined up by corridors. Planting or encouraging the growth of the panda's natural food—bamboo—will form an important part of the corridor formation. Local people, in general, lose income as a result of reservation and corridor formation. Planting alternative bamboo species gives local people the possibility to generate an alternative income. This study was undertaken to see if there might be either opportunities or threats to panda nutrition based on the way in which the species used to form the corridors were chosen. The nutritional contents of 12 suitable bamboo species from a bamboo garden nearby the most northerly panda population in China were analysed. Six species were native to the region and six were exotics. Three samples were taken from the mountainside in the panda reserve at Qinling mountains for comparison. It was found that there were only small differences between species or sites for most characteristics tested and the small differences that exist are unlikely to be of much practical significance. While only in the nature of a preliminary study, the results do not indicate any great opportunities for significant improvement in panda nutrition by bamboo species enrichment. However, neither do they indicate any great risk to panda nutrition by the introduction of bamboo species utilisable by village industries in the margin of these corridors. The use of the six native species should pose no ecological risk but the use of non-native species needs caution. However, our study has also shown that a diet of bamboo leaves by itself would not necessarily satisfy the panda's nutritional requirements. Given that nutrient contents vary seasonally and between plant parts, this study should be followed up by a more comprehensive sampling study.


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