SUPPORTED PROJECTS

Conservation biological study on the Chinese grouse (Bonasa Sewerzowi)

Sun Yue-Hua

We will use landscape ecological methods to study the wildlife conservation and management at Gannan Tibetan Autonomous State in the southern Gansu Province. The Chinese grouse (Bonasa sewerzowi), which is an endemic and rare bird in China, was selected as the target species. Chinese grouse is listed as a protected bird of the highest category in China, and is listed in the Red Data Book, and IUCN Action Plan. Its numbers are thought to have declined dramatically, and it is widely believed to be endangered. The Chinese grouse inhabits steep mountainous areas east of the Tibetan Plateau, along with many other important bird species such as the Pheasant Grouse (Tetraophasis obscurus), Blood Pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus) and Blue-eared pheasant (Crossoptilon auritum). During the present interglacial period, the climate has become increasingly arid, especially in the northern portion of the species' range, our study area. As a result, the old native coniferous forests are limited to north and east slopes. In addition to this natural habitat fragmentation, there has been extreme forest overexploitation over many areas. Knowledge of minimum viable population size, the size of habitat required to maintain a viable population, and the maximum distances that suitable habitats can be separated from each other and still allow dispersal among them is essential to save these species. Our study area consists of a mosaic of habitats. Our radio-tracking work determined that the virgin spruce-fir forest is the main habitat for the Chinese grouse, and believed to be fatal to the whole ecosystem. As the dense, mosaic spruce-fir forests will be easy to identify from satellite imagery, especially since the other dominant habitats are dry grass-shrub land and cut forest. We will first identify potential habitats from satellite imagery, then visit these habitats in spring and autumn every year, and determine if Chinese grouse and other wildlife species are present. We will evaluate the occurrence of Chinese grouse and other species in the habitat patches, in relation to patch size, the distance from other patches, and the presence of potential movement corridors. The project consists of two steps, the first step we will investigate the area at Kangle, Zhuoni and Lintan County, with the size of 50 km x 50 km. The second step study area will include most parts of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous. The Chinese government is promoting reforestation projects. With the knowledge mentioned above, it is possible that properly designed reforestation projects could reduce the isolation of suitable habitat patches. On the other hand, although the forests in our study area were seriously destroyed, commercial forest cutting is still going on. The dry climate made the forest restoration very slow, and to stop or reduce commercial forest cutting, especially at some key areas, is more important to decrease the habitat fragmentation of the local wildlife. We will give detailed reports to the Gansu Forestry Bureau and National Forestry Ministry in Beijing. Thus, our results will be applied in practical conservation. The Chinese grouse is relatively more vulnerable to the effects of habitat isolation due poor dispersal abilities, to forest management design which could protect the Chinese grouse, must be much benefit to other wildlife species being related to the virgin coniferous forest. There are already several natural reserves established in southern Gansu Province, we will evaluate the reserves from the landscape scale, and give our reports on natural reserve management and suggest for new reserves. From January 1995, we have done three-year radio-tracking work on the Chinese grouse at Lianhuashan Natural Reserve in southern Gansu Province, more than 50 birds have been radioed, it is the largest-scale of wildlife telemetry work in China. It is the first time a landscape study combined with radio-telemetry on wildlife conservation and management being done in China, this research will not only help the local government to manage their forestry practice, but also help to explore a method on how to conserve and manage wildlife resources in China in 21st century.

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