Because habitat loss and fragmentation threaten giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), habitat protection and restoration are important conservation measures for this endangered species. However, distribution and value of potential habitat to giant pandas on a regional scale are not fully known. Therefore, we identified and ranked giant panda habitat in Foping Nature Reserve, Guanyinshan Nature Reserve, and adjacent areas in the Qinling Mountains of China. We used Mahalanobis distance and 11 digital habitat layers to develop a multivariate habitat signature associated with 247 surveyed giant panda locations, which we then applied to the study region. We identified approximately 128 km2 of giant panda habitat in Foping Nature Reserve (43.6% of the reserve) and 49 km2 in Guanyinshan Nature Reserve (33.6% of the reserve). We defined core habitat areas by incorporating a minimum patch-size criterion (5.5 km2) based on home-range size. Percentage of core habitat area was higher in Foping Nature Reserve (41.8% of the reserve) than Guanyinshan Nature Reserve (26.3% of the reserve). Within the larger analysis region, Foping Nature Reserve contained 32.7% of all core habitat areas we identified, indicating regional importance of the reserve. We observed a negative relationship between distribution of core areas and presence of roads and small villages. Protection of giant panda habitat at lower elevations and improvement of habitat linkages among core habitat areas are important in a regional approach to giant panda conservation.
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Vol. 73 • No. 6