Developing an innovative and efficient performance indicator for biodiversity protection in Chinese Nature Reserves

Biodiversity Protection in Chinese Nature Reserves

This project develops a genomics-based performance indicator—using DNA sampled from parasitic invertebrates—to measure the effectiveness of nature reserves and help protect biodiversity. The methodology can be adapted and applied to reserves worldwide.

Project Title

Developing an Innovative and Efficient Performance Indicator for Biodiversity Protection in Chinese Nature Reserves

Nature reserves are the world’s most important institution for conserving biodiversity. However, we know little about whether these reserves are truly effective at protecting the species that live within them. This project uses genomics tools to improve our ability to measure nature reserve effectiveness.

Project Summary

Nature reserves are the world’s most important sites for conserving biodiversity. Currently, approximately 15 percent of the world’s terrestrial and inland water habitats have been placed into nature reserves. However, we know little about whether these reserves are truly effective at protecting the species that live within them. In Yunnan Province, we have an exciting opportunity to use genomics tools to improve our ability to measure reserve effectiveness. This project uses DNA sampled from parasitic invertebrates (iDNA) to detect and track range expansion and contraction in a large number of vertebrate species. Range size is an index of population size, so measuring range expansion and contraction provides indicators as to whether populations are growing or declining.

In the Ailaoshan nature reserve in Yunnan, this project makes systematic collections of leeches across the entire reserve, and by sequencing the iDNA from their blood meals, detects the presence and absence of mammal species at high spatial resolution across the entire park. These data are coupled with “occupancy” modeling to estimate range maps for different taxa. The project team validates these methods using standard monitoring methods, including camera traps, mosquito iDNA, and visual censuses. The outcomes: an efficient method for measuring whether nature reserves are able to protect their vertebrate wildlife, and a methodology that can be adapted and applied to reserves across China and around the world.

Partner Affiliations In China

Kunming Institute of Zoology
Yunnan Institute of Forest Inventory and Planning

See also: 2016

Principal Investigator

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    Naomi Pierce

    Sidney A. and John H. Hessel Professor of Biology, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and Curator of Lepidoptera in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

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