Bamboo forest

Community development and capacity building as key aspects of conservation strategy

Research undertaken by LJMU’s Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology has demonstrated how ecological and behavioural research has influenced conservation strategy and practice in Sichuan Province, China.

Research led by LJMU has provided the groundwork for conservation activity in Sichuan Province, China, defining the ecological requirements of two globally threatened bird species: the Sichuan Partridge and Omei Shan. The research established the population size and distribution, habitat preferences and breeding ecology of these species, noting the negative impact of human disturbance, particularly during the breeding season, on population density and breeding success. Human interventions such as seasonal bamboo shoot and firewood collection in forests, hunting and the harvest of medicinal plants were all adversely affecting these threatened species, however this knowledge led to the promotion and adoption of beneficial alternatives to these behaviours.

The LJMU research provided the basis for a number of initiatives promoting the conservation of threatened species. These included communicating the adverse effects of human activities on wildlife and creating opportunities for changing behaviour patterns to benefit both local people and wildlife. For example, to reduce the disturbance caused by firewood collection from within protected forest reserves, biogas or fuel-saving stoves were installed in several nature reserve sites which have been shown to reduce wood collection by up to 95% (and led to health improvements in the ethnic tribal population due to reduced smoke inhalation from open fires).

In addition, the research informed the location, management and monitoring of four newly protected areas for forest biodiversity in the Liang Shan of southern Sichuan. Two of the four reserves subsequently benefitted from central government funding and were successful in building capacity for conservation: teams of rangers derived from the local populations, including many Yi tribal people managed the reserves according to a five year conservation strategy prepared by LJMU staff in collaboration with Sichuan Forest Department and nature reserve colleagues.

Thirdly, the research has helped to create better understanding of Chinese wildlife and conservation locally within the UK. Chester Zoo’s China Conservation Outreach programme incorporated the Sichuan Forest Conservation and was co-founded by LJMU researcher Dr Simon Dowell*. The project has provided financial and technical support to local communities in the Liang Shan region of southern Sichuan for capacity building and community development to protect forest habitat for wildlife.

Find out more about the research within the Research Centre in Evolutionary Anthropology and Palaeoecology.

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*Dr Dowell left LJMU in 2013 to take up a position at Oxford Brookes University from where he continues to inform conservation activity in China.