Decline of traditional rice farming constrains the recovery of the endangered Asian crested ibis (Nipponia nippon)
Traditional agriculture benefits a rich diversity of plants and animals. The winter-flooded rice fields in the Qinling Mountains, China, are the last refuge for the endangered Asian crested ibis (Nipponia nippon), and intensive efforts have been made to protect this anthropogenic habitat. Analyses of multi-temporal satellite data indicate that winter-flooded rice fields have been continuously reduced across the current range of crested ibis during the past two decades. The rate of loss of these fields in the core-protected areas has unexpectedly increased to a higher level than that in non-protected areas in the past decade. The best fit (R 2 = 0.87) numerical response model of the crested ibis population shows that a reduction of winter-flooded rice fields decreases population growth and predicts that the population growth will be constrained by the decline of traditional winter-flooded rice fields in the coming decades. Our findings suggest that the decline of traditional rice farming is likely to continue to pose a threat to the long-term survival and recovery of the crested ibis population in China.
KeywordsCrested ibis GIS expert system Land cover/use change Population growth Remote sensing Traditional agriculture
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31372218) and co-funded by the China Scholarship Council (CSC) and the ITC Research Fund, Enschede, the Netherlands. We thank Shaanxi Crested Ibis Nature Reserve for offering valuable help during fieldwork and Jackie Senior for editing the manuscript.
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