Data from: Population genetics reveals high connectivity of giant panda populations across human disturbance features in key nature reserve
Qiao, Maiju et al. (2019), Data from: Population genetics reveals high connectivity of giant panda populations across human disturbance features in key nature reserve, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hf03sm4
The giant panda is an example of a species that has faced extensive historical habitat fragmentation and anthropogenic disturbance, and is assumed to be isolated in numerous subpopulations with limited gene flow between them. To investigate the population size, health and connectivity of pandas in a key habitat area, we noninvasively collected a total of 539 fresh wild giant panda fecal samples for DNA extraction within Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China. Seven validated tetra-microsatellite markers were used to analyze each sample, and a total of 142 unique genotypes were identified. Non-spatial and spatial capture-recapture models estimated the population size of the reserve at 164 and 137 individuals (95% confidence intervals 153-175 and 115-163), respectively. Relatively high levels of genetic variation and low levels of inbreeding were estimated, indicating adequate genetic diversity. Surprisingly, no significant genetic boundaries were found within the population despite the national road G350 that bisects the reserve, which is also bordered with patches of development and agricultural land. We attribute this to high rates of migration, with 4 giant panda road-crossing events confirmed within a year based on repeated captures of individuals. This likely means that giant panda populations within mountain ranges are better connected than previously thought. Increased development and tourism traffic in the area and throughout the current panda distribution poses a threat of increasing population isolation, however. Maintaining and restoring adequate habitat corridors for dispersal is thus a vital step for preserving the levels of gene flow seen in our analysis and the continued conservation of the giant panda meta-population in both Wolong and throughout their current range.
Wolong National Nature Reserve