Field ecology and conservation of wild felids in Asia
Our ground-based research focuses on wild felids in China, completed or ongoing projects including an assessment of the impact of forest stand structure on tigers’ ungulate prey populations in northeast China, an investigation of behavioral ecology and evolutionary history of the endemic wildcat species (Felis silvestris bieti and F. s. ornata) in northwest China, and survey of leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis) on the outskirts of Beijing.
Restoration of prey base in the relatively continuous but ”empty” forest is of primary concern to Amur tiger conservation in northeast China. Poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation are considered the primary causes of deterring ungulates from recovery. Yet another likely critical issue that has been neglected is that the forest management practices in northeast China has led to distribution in most regions of overly dense and monoculture forest, likely suboptimal for ungulate species. Current research and conservation plans lack the quantitative analyses to demonstrate to what extent the shortage of habitat suitable for ungulate survival is limiting the recovery of the Amur tiger.
To this end, we conducted four-year fieldwork in Dahuangou, Duhuangzi and Xinancha Forest Farms, a tract of tiger habitats in Jilin near the border to Russia and North Korea, to estimate the influences of such variables on primary tiger prey species, or, wild boar, red deer, roe deer, and sika deer. We examined the influence of forest stand structure on wild ungulate populations, after eliminating the impacts of other key natural or artificial covariates such as forest type and poaching intensity. Ultimately, we aim to explore a strategy to increase the prey base for tigers via an enhanced forest habitat, and thus making the recovery of wild tiger population in China more optimistic.
- Genetic basis of morphology and adaptation in Felidae and other mammalian species
- Evolution and conservation genomics of endangered wildlife