Giant panda selection between Bashania fangiana bamboo habitats in Wolong reserve, Sichuan, China.
Habitat selection by the giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca was studied in the subalpine forests of Wolong Reserve, Sichuan, China, where Bashania fangiana is the preferred food. The pandas' seasonal use of available habitats, for feeding, was quantified by estimating the density of droppings on 20 m long segments of 2-m wide belt transects running through bamboo patches. Habitat parameters were measured along transect segments (slope steepness, forest canopy cover) and in plots associated with segments (B. fangiana culm density, height and diam.) Pandas showed stronger habitat preferences in summer than winter. Data are presented for 5 forest stand types on nutritive quality ratio and digestibility ratio for stems and shoots in winter and leaves and branches in summer, on the number of leaves/stem, av. biomass/leaf, leaf biomass/stem and stem nutritive index. In summer, when feeding on leaves, pandas preferred dense B. fangiana under sparse forest canopy. In winter, when feeding on stem, pandas preferred B. fangiana stands with the tallest and widest culms, and avoided areas with substantial previous use. In all seasons, pandas preferred B. fangiana growing on more level terrain. Pandas showed little discrimination between bamboo patches based on av. patch quality. Their selection was for those portions of patches which provided the best combinations of seasonally preferred B. fangiana growth form plus low slope.