Dr. Li's research focuses on the loss of biodiversity, endangered and endemic species conservation such as giant pandas, priority setting and management of protected areas, reduce impacts from linear infrastructure such as roads and railways on biodiversity in Belt and Road Countries, and promotion of innovative technology, markets and policies to solve conservation problems and local community development.
How protecting pandas protect other species?
Umbrella species has been an important idea in conservation. Giant pandas are one the most famous umbrella and flagship species in the world. With the vast amount of resources has been put into the iconic and endangered giant panda conservation, we asked, would this benefit the other species or not? It was the first study quantifying the umbrella species effect. Our results showed that 96% of panda habitats overlapped with endemic centers in forests. By protecting panda habitats, we could protect 70% of endemic forest birds, 70% of mammals and 30% of amphibians.
Livestock grazing and giant panda conservation
Livestock grazing has become the most prevalent human disturbance in giant panda habitats. In this project, we are looking at the impacts of free-ranging livestock on panda habitats, socio-economic drivers for increasing livestock in forests and potential solutions. We are seeking a balance of local community development, sustainable natural resources use and panda conservation.
Footprint Identification Technology (FIT) for giant pandas
Footprints can be used to identify individuals. We are developing a cost-effective, non-invasive individual identification technology collaborating with WildTrack, JMP and China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda for giant pandas. Our initial results also show high accuracy of using this techonology to identify individuals as well as sex discrimination. FIT provides an innovative tool to study the population dynamics and promote panda conservation.
Conserving Biodiversity – Belt and Road Initiative
China has proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a development strategy that covers 64 countries. It is unclear how the the potential development will impact the biodiversity in these areas. We are collaborating with researchers from Duke and Duke Kunshan university to look at the potential impacts and identify highly vulnerable areas.
Tree plantation and biodiversity
Tree plantation, especially monoculture has been deemed as “green desert”, because the lack of biodiversity. Many plantation have been left unmanaged after shifting from logging firms to protected areas. Together with Peking University, we are answering this question, how does the aging and matrix of these plantations influence its supporting function of biodiversity?
Remotely Sensed Data Informs Red List Evaluations and Conservation Priorities in Southeast Asia
Tropical, mainland Southeast Asia is under exceptional threat, such as rubber and oil palm plantation that greatly reduce the biodiversity. We used remote sensing to identify the area of natural forests and excluded these species-poor plantations. This information further informed a species’s risk of extinction. We evaluated the current risk level of all endemic forest birds, mammals and amphibians in this area and did a GAP analysis using current protected areas. We mapped the future conservation priorities and developed a quick and simple method to identify and modify the priority setting in a landscape where natural habitats are disappearing rapidly and so where conventional species’ assessments might be too slow to respond.
Effects of feral cats on the evolution of anti-predator behaviours in Island reptiles: Insights from an ancient introduction
Feral cats have driven the extinction of many island species and are listed as the top 100 worst invasive species. We examined impacts of feral cats on the abundance and anti-predator behaviours of Aegean wall lizards in the Cyclades (Greece), where cats were introduced thousands of years ago. Lizards facing greater risk from cats stayed closer to refuges, were more likely to shed their tails in a standardized assay, and fled at greater distances when approached by either a person in the field or a mounted cat decoy in the laboratory. All populations showed phenotypic plasticity in flight initiation distance, suggesting that this feature is ancient and could have helped wall lizards survive the initial introduction of cats to the region. Lizards from islets on the contrary showed lower level of antipredator behaviors, which could render islet lizards strongly susceptible to cat predation.