China names 14 new Wetlands of International Importance
The Government of the People's Republic of China has tripled its number of Wetlands of International Importance by designating, effective 11 January 2002, 14 provincial and national Nature Reserves for the Ramsar List, an addition of 1,959,383 hectares. The new sites range from vast wetlands in the semi-arid steppes of Inner Mongolia to mangrove forests in the extreme southwest of the country; from two more parts of Dongting Lake on the plains of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River to intertidal mudflats at the river's mouth near Shanghai; from reserves dedicated to the Spotted Seal in the Bohai Sea to reserves for the endangered Green Turtle on a gently sloping beach in the south, and still another for the Pere David's Deer, known here as the "Milu". Here is the administrative announcement of the Ramsar Bureau's listing of the new sites - at ceremonies on World Wetlands Day, the Ramsar Implementing Office of the State Forestry Administration, together with WWF China and the WWF Living Waters Programme, will make the official announcement of the new designations, bringing China's total Ramsar coverage to 21 sites with 2,547,763 hectares included. Here are brief descriptions of the new sites.
Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve, Shanghai. 11/01/02; Shanghai; 32,600 ha; 31°38'N 121°58'E. Nature Reserve. An extensive area of fresh and salt water marshes, tidal creeks, and intertidal mudflats at the eastern end of Chongming Island, a lowlying alluvial island in the mouth of the Yangtze River, which supports farmland, fish and crab ponds, and extensive reedbeds. The site is a staging and wintering site for millions of birds, as well as a spawning and feeding ground for 63 species of fish, including the protected Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis). Due to its extraordinary resources and scenic qualities and its proximity to the city of Shanghai 45km away, the site is an attractive destination for ecotourism and environmental education (though the numbers of visitors within the site are regulated), and supports an important fisheries economy as well. Continuing tidal and sedimentation influences on the island itself and development pressures outward from the city are being watched for adverse effects. An ongoing project, parts of it with support from GEF and WWF, is developing the site into a centre for environmental education and training. Ramsar site no. 1144.
Dafeng (Elaphurus davidianus) National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Jiangsu; 78,000 ha; 33°05'N 120°49'E. National Nature Reserve. A typical intertidal mudflat ecosystem on the coastline of the Yellow Sea, supporting a wide variety of rare animal species, including 315 species of birds (23 of them nationally protected), 600 of insects and 156 of fish, as well as the threatened Pere David's Deer or "Milu" (Elaphurus davidianus) for which the Reserve was chiefly gazetted. Following the introduction of 39 Milu in 1986, the population has grown to nearly 500 individuals, said to be the largest Milu population in the world; the population is in fact outgrowing the site's capacity, and research on the release of the Milu into the wild is ongoing. The site performs all of the normal coastal wetland functions, such as flood control, sediment retention, and shoreline stabilization, to a high degree. Ecotourism and education are carried out within the site, with some 150,000 visitors per year, and the surrounding areas are used for forestry and agriculture. Agricultural development, including land reclamation, and chemical runoff are seen as significant threats. Ramsar site no. 1145.
Dalai Lake National Nature Reserve, Inner Mongolia. 11/01/02; Inner Mongolia; 740,000 ha; 48°33'N 117°30'E; National Nature Reserve. A complex of lakes, rivers, marshes, shrubs, grasslands and reed beds typical of wetlands in arid steppes, still retaining near-natural conditions. A staging area in the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Flyway, the site is important for some 284 bird species, particularly Anatidae and shorebird species, and exceeds the 20,000 individuals and 1% thresholds for a number of species. Some 30 fish species are supported, of both Siberian and Northeast China types, and some are economically important. The Dalai Lake region, as the only lower land of the Hulunbeir Plateau, has great significance for flood storage, sediment retention, and groundwater recharge, and is critical for maintaining regional climate and increasing air humidity. Tourism offers birdwatching, boating, and traditional Mongolian foods, customs, and cultures, and the area is becoming a center for environmental education and research. Fishing is the primary activity of the water area, accounting for some 10,000 tons of economic fish per year, and livestock grazing in surrounding grasslands involves more than 2 million animals. Over-fishing within the site and over-grazing leading to desertification in the area are listed as potential threats. A management regime is in force. Ramsar site no. 1146.
Dalian National Spotted Seal (Phoca vitulina) Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Liaoning; 11,700 ha; 39°15'N 121°15'E. National Nature Reserve. A coastal area of the Bohai Sea, 20km from Dalian City, consisting of sea floor covered by pedestal rock of between 5 and 40 meters' depth and including over 70 islands and islets with rocky coasts and reefs. The sites provides habitat for 100 species of fish and numerous shellfish, as well as breeding grounds for a number of whale and dolphin species. It is as a reserve for the spotted seal Phoca vitulina, however, that the site is best known and for which it attracts large numbers of tourists from the nearby city and elsewhere. The cycle of the seals' lives is tied to the icing and melting conditions, as, following the adults' migratory routes through the Sea of Japan, Yellow Sea, and East China Sea, young seals are born on the ice within the site and remain with a nuclear family until the ice breaks up some three months later in March. Following many years of unrestricted hunting, which has been banned since 1983, the spotted seal population has fallen to about 1000 and the species is presently considered endangered. Climate change effects and pollution are thought to be potential threats. Ramsar site no. 1147.
Eerduosi National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Inner Mongolia; 7,680 ha; 39°48'N 109°35'E. National Nature Reserve. A typical Euro-Asian grassland and Asian desert with high ecological fragility, including a large number of permanent freshwater and saline lakes and pools, with islands, and human-made aquaculture ponds. The sites supports some 15,000 breeding Relic gull (Larus relictus) in May and is a staging area for 60% of the world's population of that species; some 83 other species of waterbirds are also present, with 18 of them breeding there. Within the site, 16 villages support a population of 6,400 people who rely upon undeveloped argiculture, forestry, and livestock grazing for their livelihoods; fish farming is also practiced within the site. Desertification and soil erosion, and over-extraction of groundwater, in this area adjacent to the Maowusu and Kubuqi Deserts, are seen as potential threats. Land use is under a holistic planning regime under the Nature Reserve authority. Ramsar site no. 1148.
Honghe National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Heilongjiang; 21,836 ha; 47°49'N 133°40'E. National Nature Reserve. A near-natural marsh ecosystem with a large variety of wetland types, providing support for six endangered and rare species of flora and three of avifauna. The Reserve is the main breeding site for the Oriental stork (Ciconia ciconia), with 200 individuals in autumn, as well as for Black stork, Red-crowned and White-napped cranes, Whooper swan, and Mandarin duck. State-owned farms cultivate rice in the area. Overuse of groundwater and intensive agriculture are viewed as potential threats and a plan to regulate water supplies with a sluice dam has been put forward. Ramsar site no. 1149.
Huidong Harbor Sea Turtle National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Guangdong; 400 ha; 22°33'N 114°54'E. National Nature Reserve. At the juncture of Daya Bay and Honghai Bay in the South China Sea, presently the only sea turtle protected area in China, with seawater and gently-sloping sandy beaches still in good environmental quality and eminently suitable for sea turtles, which have traditionally been regarded as a divine species and symbol of longevity and good luck in the region. The beach, 1,000m long and 70m wide, surrounded by mountains on the three landward sides, supports as many as 400-500 Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), an IUCN Red List endangered species, during egg-laying. The area is under collective ownership, and the site has been delimited as a fishery protected area by local government - since it received Reserve status in 1992, fishery stocks have benefited. It is felt that the boundaries of the present Reserve, demarcated in 1986, are somewhat too restricted for its conservation purposes, and efforts are being made to expand it. Artificial incubation and breeding ponds have been established to assist young turtles when adverse conditions, such as bad weather, warrant. Ramsar site no. 1150.
Nan Dongting Wetland and Waterfowl Reserve. 11/01/02; Hunan; 168,000 ha; 28°50'N 112°40'E. Nature Reserve. Located in the southern part of Dongting Lake, the largest lake on the plains of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, the site supports important numbers of endangered Oriental Stork (Ciconia boyciana) and Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus), as well as Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis), and produces rich fauna and flora of high economic value. It also plays an important role in the regulation and storage of flood water from the Yangtze. Some 14,000 people live within the site, chiefly practicing fishing and aquaculture in human-made ponds and growing economic crops in the mudflat areas, including some 120,000 tons of reeds annually. Deforestation in the upper reaches of the Yangtze is leading to increased flow of mud and sand into the lake bed, and pesticide runoff and industrial pollution are also seen as potential threats. During "Bird Loving Week" activities are carried out for schoolchildren in the region, and some 24,000 birdwatchers visit the site's facilities annually. Ramsar site no. 1151.
San Jiang National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Heilongjiang; 164,400 ha; 47°56'N 134°20'E. National Nature Reserve. An alluvial floodplain typical of high-altitude wetlands, a mixture of rivers, open bogs, seasonally flooded meadows, and sedge marshes, the largest area of freshwater wetland in the country. The site is internationally important for waterbirds, particularly ducks, and for fishery resources, and serves as a natural reservoir for the San Jiang Plains, providing vital flood control as well. Due to its remote location and cold winters, human interference has been minimal, though local inhabitants, including 300-400 people of the He Zhe (one of the smallest ethnic groups in China) who support a unique cultural, find abundant animal, fish, and forest resources. Overfishing with small mesh nets and other human effects are seen as potential threats, but rational ecotourism, especially in cooperation with nearby Russia, holds promise. Ramsar site no. 1152.
Shankou Mangrove Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Guangxi; 4,000 ha; 21°28'N 109°43'E. Nature Reserve. Two related areas on either side of the Shatian Peninsula on the Beibu Gulf at the border between Guangzi and Guangdong provinces in the southwest of China, where salt marsh and mangrove forest form a protective barrier for the coastal farmlands and villages. Some 14 species of mangrove are represented, principally Rhizophora stylosa and Avicennia marina, and provide support for a number of vulnerable and endangered species, including Dugong dugon and Chinese dolphin Sotalia sinensis, as well as for a large number of nationally protected bird species. Shrimp culture and improper hunting create pressures, but a management plan is entering implementation. Ramsar site no. 1153.
Xi Dongting Lake (Mupinghu) Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Hunan; 35,000 ha; 29°01'N 112°05'E. Nature Reserve. The important western part of Dongting Lake, comprising open freshwater lake and smaller lakes, some shallow mudflats during low water periods, reed swamp, sphagnum bog, and beaches. The site is very important for rare fish, such as Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis), and birds, such as the threatened Oriental Stork (Ciconia boyciana); in addition it serves as a staging area for many other migrating cranes and storks. Fishing, and increasingly fish-breeding, and livestock grazing are important economic activities dependent upon the site. Industrial pollution, unwise fishing practices, and overproduction of reeds are seen as threats. Conservation research and education, with assistance from WWF, are increasingly important. Because of the extraordinary beauty of the site, with its "deeply green grass and dancing water birds", an increase in ecotourism is being planned for. Ramsar site no. 1154.
Xingkai Lake National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Heilongjiang; 222,488 ha; 45°17'N 132°32'E. National Nature Reserve. A complex wetland system including grassland, marshes, lakes, and forests, contiguous with Russia to the south across the Songacha River. The site, at the northern end of the large lake, provides important breeding habitat for a number of bird species protected in China, and some 65 fish species and more than 460 higher plant species are present. A transboundary nature reserve agreement (including joint training) was established in 1992 with the Khank Nature Reserve in Russia, with the help of the International Crane Foundation, and another in 1996 for management of the whole Xingkai Lake. The reserve joined the North East Asian Crane Site Network in 1997. Four ecotourism resorts drew 500,000 visitors from China and abroad in 2000. Ramsar site no. 1155.
Yancheng National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Jiangsu; 453,000 ha; 33°31'N 120°22'E. National Nature Reserve. Comprises the largest coastal wetland in China, expansive mudflats along over 120 kilometres of coastline which supports high biodiversity. About 3 million individuals of 200 bird species are said to migrate through the site annually, and many, particularly Anatidae, winter there. The site provides one of the two largest habitats in China for the Pere David's or Water deer (Elaphurus davidianus), known as "Milu", and is said to support about 10% of the world population of Black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor). The core areas are uninhabited and in natural condition, whereas the buffer and experimental zones include rice fields, fish and shrimp ponds, with about one million people living in and near the site. The site is owned by Yancheng City: the Reserve management has managerial rights over the core area, whilst local governments have managerial rights over the buffer zones, within agreed parameters. Ramsar site no. 1156.
Zhanjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve. 11/01/02; Guangdong; 20,279 ha; 20°54'N 110°08'E. National Nature Reserve. The largest mangrove forest wetland reserve in China, located along coastal areas of the Leizhou Peninsula at the southernmost tip of China between the South China Sea and the Tonkin Gulf, adjacent to Hainan Island. Some 24 species of mangrove are said to be present, and at low tide large areas of exposed mudflats provide excellent support for migrating waterbirds. Like other mangrove forests, the somewhat separate components of the site provide sanctuary for offshore fish, sustenance for birds and other fauna, and coastal protection from waves, tides, and storm surges. The coastal and inshore area supports economic fishing and aquaculture for local people. Agricultural and urban development and fishfarming have destroyed much of the former mangrove areas, but a comprehensive management and afforestation programme for the Reserve, supported by The Netherlands, holds promise for arresting these impacts. Ocean pollution of oil and heavy metal has been taking a toll. Ramsar site no. 1157.