New Study Finds Giant Pandas Give Back More Than They Receive

Posted on January 7th 2019

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China has already established 67 reserves for the protection of giant pandas and their habitat. That in it of itself is a wonderful thing but as it would happen, the reserves do far more than simply protect giant pandas according to the results of a new study. The study says that the biodiversity contained within the reserves appear to be amongst the highest in the temperate world and are filled with many endemic species to China.

Valuing the benefits

The researchers who conducted the study gave values to the reserves’ ecosystem, they also assigned values to the benefits humans receive from having such a natural environment with a properly functioning ecosystem and the results were astonishing. It turns out the giant pandas pay back far more than the cost of their protection. A team of scientists led by biologist Fuwen Wei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences mapped out the land used by giant pandas and determined the status of giant panda populations using census data from between 1980 to 2010.


Using this data, the research team conducted a meta-analysis of all the previous national studies that have been conducted and assigned dollar values to a number of metrics provided by giant pandas and the 67 reserves they reside in. The metrics included provisioning, regulatory, cultural and ecological and included everything from dollar values on growing crops, water filtration, recreational and tourism opportunities and even the box office gross of the movie Kung Fu Panda and its sequel.

Conservative estimates

The team estimates that the total income generated by the panda reserve ecosystem in China during 2010 was between US$2.6 billion to $6.9 billion which is between 10 to 27 times the cost of maintaining the Chinese giant panda reserve system. Robert Costanza an ecological economist with the Australian National University and a member of the research team says the estimate is actually quite conservative and that with the addition of more data, the numbers could be further refined.

Protecting the environment

The results of the study reinforce the idea that China should continue to restore and protect ecosystems where the giant panda lives. This work is mandated through the federal planning process which seeks to turn China into what it terms an ecological civilisation. The country has begun to understand the destructive effects of air and water pollution as well as other environmental impacts of rapid industrialisation. Something has to be done about it and fortunately they are in the process of doing that.

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