300

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

num­ber of species of mi­gra­tory wa­ter birds un­der con­ser­va­tion in the basin, which serves as a ma­jor gath­er­ing cen­ter for many global flag­ship species, such as the Siberian crane, the Chi­nese mer­ganser and the lesser white­fronted goose, according to WWF China

tion and restora­tion of the wet­land along the Yangtze River is con­sid­ered an im­por­tant way of im­ple­ment­ing the na­tional strat­egy to build an eco­nomic belt along the river, he said.

The eco­nomic belt cov­ers Shang­hai and Chongqing, and nine prov­inces — Jiangsu, Zhe­jiang, An­hui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hu­nan, Sichuan, Yun­nan and Guizhou — across an area of more than 2 mil­lion square kilo­me­ters.

At present, 18 Ram­sar sites (wet­land des­ig­nated as in­ter­na­tion­ally im­por­tant), 167 wet­land re­serves and 291 na­tional wet­land parks have been es­tab­lished to man­age 11.54 mil­lion hectares within the belt.

“They form a com­par­a­tively com­plete wet­land con­ser­va­tion sys­tem,” Chen said.

Chal­lenges

The ques­tion of how to pro­vide bet­ter pro­tec­tion for the Yangtze wet­land re­mains a big chal­lenge, according to Chen.

Recla­ma­tion of lakes and other wet­land, pollution, over­graz­ing on alpine wet­land and over­ex­ploita­tion of fauna, flora and wa­ter re­sources are some of the fac­tors threat­en­ing the Yangtze River wet­land, he said.

Chen Ji­akuan, a pro­fes­sor of ecol­ogy at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai, said the con­ser­va­tion project faces many “very se­ri­ous prob­lems”.

“Some are ter­ri­fy­ing,” he said. “The most press­ing prob­lem for me is dam con­struc­tion on the Yangtze main­stream. A to­tal of 25 dams have been com­pleted, are un­der con­struc­tion or are planned for the Jin­sha River (the Chi­nese name for the up­per stretches of the Yangtze River), in­clud­ing a few world-class megadams. They have changed the river’s hy­dro­log­i­cal pro­cesses.”

As a re­sult, only about 150 mil­lion met­ric tons of silt have flowed down­stream an­nu­ally in re­cent years, com­pared with 450 mil­lion tons a year in the 1950s, he said.

“The basin is such a large area. We have of­ten faced dif­fer­ent prob­lems in­volv­ing dif­fer­ent de­part­ments in dif­fer­ent ar­eas since we joined the Yangtze con­ser­va­tion pro­gram in the 1990s,” said Liu Xiao­hai, con­ser­va­tion di­rec­tor of WWF China. “Pro­tect­ing a sin­gle species — the Yangtze River fin­less por­poise, for ex­am­ple — we en­coun­tered prob­lems caused by sand dredg­ing, pollution, over­fish­ing and nav­i­ga­tion.”

In a re­serve for gi­ant pan­das, con­ser­va­tion­ists may face en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems caused by a vil­lage with a pop­u­la­tion of a few hun­dred peo­ple, he said.

“But about 20,000 peo­ple live on Tian’ezhou Is­land,” he said, ex­plain­ing that the river is­land is part of two na­tional na­ture re­serves and is im­por­tant for the sur­vival of sev­eral key species, in­clud­ing the fin­less por­poise and milu, also known as Pere David’s deer.

When dis­cussing the prob­lem of over­fish­ing, one also has to con­sider the 150,000 fish­er­men who make a liv­ing from the river, Liu added.

Chen Ji­akuan echoed Liu: “That’s why we need ex­ten­sive pro­tec­tion, which means pro­tect­ing not just the river, but also the whole wa­ter­shed — all the forests, rivers and lakes along the lower, mid­dle and up­per reaches of the main river. They are com­mu­ni­ties of lives. To put the Yangtze un­der ex­ten­sive pro­tec­tion, we have to deal with all of the prob­lems.”

Con­ser­va­tion net­work

The “cross-re­gional and cross-sec­toral” wet­land net- work is one of the rare cases of suc­cess­ful ex­ten­sive pro­tec­tion, according to Chen Ji­akuan.

Liu Xiao­hai said the net­work’s 10-year de­vel­op­ment pe­riod has given many con­ser­va­tion­ists con­fi­dence in the prospects for Yangtze wet­land con­ser­va­tion.

The con­ser­va­tion net­work had just 27 mem­bers when it was founded in 2007 by the Wet­land Management Cen­ter, WWF China, wet­land man­ag­ing au­thor­i­ties in five prov­inces and Shang­hai, along the mid­dle and lower reaches of the river.

“Now we have ex­panded to the up­per reaches and have 252 mem­bers in 12 prov­inces,” Liu said. “The wet­land area man­aged by our mem­bers has ex­panded from 370,000 hectares to 29 mil­lion hectares.”

Jiang Yong, a man­ager with WWF China’s Yangtze pro­gram, said: “The net­work is a plat­form for wet­land con­ser­va­tion­ists to share ex­pe­ri­ences and ideas, iden­tify is­sues and up­date our knowl­edge. Over the years, it has given tech­ni­cal or fi­nan­cial sup­port to more than 100 con­ser­va­tion projects. Many of our suc­cess­ful projects have been pro­moted among our mem­bers, es­pe­cially new par­tic­i­pants.”

Mo­men­tum

Liu said that more than half of China’s wet­land has joined the net­work to cre­ate a co­op­er­a­tive mech­a­nism and “a mo­men­tum of com­mu­ni­ca­tion”.

The model has been copied on wet­land along the Yel­low River, the Hei­longjiang River and the East Coast, which have es­tab­lished net­works of their own.

“We in­vited rep­re­sen­ta­tives from mem­bers of the three net­works to at­tend our meet­ing,” Liu said.

At the meet­ing, Tang from Dong­tan re­vealed that the re­serve re­cently signed a con­tract of co­op­er­a­tion with the Dong­cao­hai Na­tional Wet­land Park in He­qing county, Yun­nan, to help im­prove the park’s management.

“We will share our ex­pe­ri­ences in re­search, mon­i­tor­ing and education with our coun­ter­parts in He­qing,” he said.

Con­tact the writ­ers through chen­liang@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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