Protecting pandas may save the planet: study
Over several decades, the China has introduced programmes to convert farmlands back to forests, ban logging and harvesting of wood products and replant acres of trees. AP file photo
"Sometimes unintended consequences can be happy ones – and give us ways to do even better as we work toward sustainability. Pandas are leading us to even greater ways to care for nature and health of humans and the planet," said Jianguo Liu from Michigan State University in the US.
Over several decades, the China has introduced programmes to convert farmlands back to forests, ban logging and harvesting of wood products and replant acres of trees.
Researchers analysed the data and found that not only are the forests in the reserves thriving, and in ways that benefit more than the iconic pandas.
They found that the forests inside the 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 that contributes to climate change.
"Forests outside of reserves, are often growing faster than in the reserves. But that isn't a downfall of reserves," said Andres Vina, Assistant Professor at MSU.
"Rather, reserves usually had a head start in forest preservation, and in many cases have reached their maximum growth and density," Vina added.
The researchers also have found that not all forests are created equal – both in panda appeal and for biodiversity.
Many of those forests come with an under story rich with bamboo – a necessity for pandas.
The team noted that the types of forest present opportunities to improve. In some areas, the original goal of reforestation was to retain soil and water.
"We are seeing efforts that are moving in the right direction and showing positive results for nature and for humans," Vina said.
"Now it's time to continue those efforts and fine tune them to continue to get even more benefits," Vina added.
The study was published in the journal Ecosphere.