The latest findings show that panda protection, such as building natural reserves, yields 10 to 27 times as much value as it costs to maintain the current reserves.
"Many critics say that spending valuable resources on panda conservation is a waste of money," Wei Fuwen, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Zoology, was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying on Friday.
Our analysis disproves this view culturally and intrinsically for the ecological benefits the panda reserves provide, Wei said.
By 2010, 67 panda reserves with an area of more than 33,000 square kilometers had been established in China, covering more than half the suitable panda habitat.
Wei and his colleagues found that panda reserves offer a variety of opportunities for local people, such as growing crops, grazing animals, water supply and harvesting firewood and useful plants.
The reserves also help manage precipitous water runoff, sediment retention, carbon sequestration and nutrient retention.
To explore the value of pandas and their reserves in a systematic way, researchers reviewed each of the regulatory, provisional and cultural services associated with panda reserves, determining the value of each.
Researchers said $632 are generated per hectare per year.
After multiplying that per hectare per year value by estimates of forest area within the 67 panda reserves, they came to a value of $562 million per year in 1980.
By 2010, the value of ecosystem services of the panda and its reserves had increased to somewhere between $2.6 billion and $6.9 billion per year, according to the study.
"We know that the system of reserves and protection is working to reverse the panda's decline and that these efforts have benefited society and nature," Wei said.
This should further motivate people to continue to support panda conservation, he noted.
In March, the Bank of China's Sichuan branch signed deals with Sichuan's Forestry Administration worth 10 billion yuan ($1.58 billion) in five years to build a Giant Panda National Park and help relocate poverty-stricken people living in those areas.
The park, which spans Northwest China's Gansu and Shaanxi provinces and Southwest China's Sichuan Province, will cover 27,134 square kilometers, three times the area of the US' Yellowstone National Park. It will have a core area, protecting pandas in 67 current reserves as well as another 8,000 endangered animals and plants, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
According to Wei, the result also helps to justify not just efforts to preserve the panda but for other endangered species as well.