Full Text: Ecological Progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a white paper titled Ecological Progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau on Wednesday.

China SCIOUpdated: July 18, 2018

II. Prominent Progress in Ecosystem Conservation

Since the 1960s, and especially over the last three decades, the Chinese government has put in place various ecosystem conservation projects, including wildlife protection and nature reserve development, the construction of key shelter forests, natural forest conservation, returning farmland to forest and grassland, restoring grazing land to grassland, water and soil conservation, and wetland conservation and restoration. The Tibet Autonomous Region has implemented a project for the protection and construction of an eco-safety barrier, and a project for afforestation in the basins of the Yarlung Tsangpo, Nujiang, Lhasa, Nyangchu, Yalong, and Shiquan rivers. Qinghai Province implemented a project for the conservation and restoration of the Qilian Mountain ecosystem, composed of mountains, rivers, forest, farmland, lakes, and grassland, a project for the conservation and comprehensive improvement of the Qinghai Lake ecosystem, and a project for the ecological conservation and construction of Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve. In 2011, the Chinese government issued and implemented the Plan for Regional Ecological Construction and Environmental Protection on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (2011-2030). A number of eco-projects have been implemented, achieving positive results in ecosystem conservation, bringing under control the degradation of the local ecosystem, restoring the biodiversity, and the ecological functions of several regions where key eco-projects were implemented have been comprehensively improved.

Ecological degradation is under control.

Alpine grassland is a major ecosystem on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, playing an important role as an eco-safety barrier, and serving as the basis of highland animal husbandry. Climate change, overgrazing and some other reasons caused continuous degradation of alpine grasslands. By the mid-1980s, the grassland area in Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province had been reduced to 820,000 sq km in total. Later, due to the implementation by the government of such policies as issuance of allowances for restoring grazing land to grassland and protecting the grassland ecosystem, and the undertaking of a number of grassland ecological conservation projects, such as pest and rodent prevention and control, progress was made in grassland ecosystem conservation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. According to research, from 1982 to 2009 the grassland coverage rate of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and its net primary productivity (NPP) showed an overall increase, with newly-added grassland coverage accounting for 47 percent of the total, and the area with a dramatic NPP increase reaching more than 32 percent of the total. In the recent decade, the local grassland ecosystem has maintained steady and positive improvement.

The forests on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are mainly distributed in northwest Yunnan, southeast Tibet, west Sichuan, south Gansu, and east Qinghai. Since the 1950s, great changes have taken place in terms of coverage, reserve, type, and spatial distribution of the forests. According to the results of the Ninth National Forest Resource Survey in 2016, in Tibet, the area of forested land was 17.98 million ha, that of forests was 14.91 million ha, the forest coverage rate was 12.14 percent, and the total stock of timber reached 2.3 billion cu m. Compared with the results of the Eighth National Forest Resource Survey conducted in 2011, in Tibet, the area of forested land and that of forests had increased by 147,500 ha and 198,700 ha respectively, the rate of forest coverage went up by 0.16 percentage point, and the stock of timber by 20.47 million cu m, an increase in both forest area and timber stock.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau boasts the most and largest area of wetlands in China. In 1990, the total area of wetlands on the Plateau was about 134,500 sq km. From 1990 to 2006, local wetlands suffered continuous degradation at an annual rate of 0.13 percent. In this period, the total area of wetlands had been reduced by 3,000 sq km. Since 2006, due to efforts in conservation and natural environmental factors, the area of wetlands have picked up obviously. By 2011, the wetland area in Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province alone had reached 146,700 sq km, and the trend of wetland degradation had generally been contained. By 2014, the wetland area in Qinghai had reached 81,400 sq km. In recent years, as China has intensified efforts in conservation, further improvement has been witnessed in the local wetland ecosystem.

Significant achievements have been made in biodiversity protection.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is one of the regions with the richest biodiversity in the world. The Qiangtang-Sanjiangyuan area, the area extending from the Minshan Mountain to the northern range of Hengduan Mountains, the area southeast of the Himalayas, and the southern range of Hengduan Mountains are key biodiversity conservation zones in China. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has about 3,760 distinctive spermatophyte species, 280 distinctive vertebrate species, 300 rare and endangered species of higher plants, and 120 species of rare and endangered animals. The nature reserves established have effectively protected the rare and endangered wildlife unique to the Plateau as well as their habitats.

The restoration and expansion of rare and endangered species is obvious evidence of success in biodiversity conservation. According to research, the numbers of black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis), Tibetan antelope (Pantholopshodgsonii), Przewalski's gazelle (Procapraprze walskii), wild yak (Bosmutus), red deer (Cervuselaphus), and Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopi thecusbieti), have increased steadily. Since the establishment of the Black-necked Crane National Nature Reserve on the Middle Reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet Autonomous Region in 1993, the number of overwintering black-necked crane has increased year by year, accounting for 80 percent of the world's total, and the nature reserve has become the world's largest wintering ground for black-necked cranes. The number of Tibetan antelope on the Qiangtang Plateau in Tibet Autonomous Region increased from about 60,000 in 2000 to over 200,000 in 2016. And the number of wild yak in this area increased from 6,000 before it was included for protection to 10,000 in 2016. At the Baima Snow Mountain National Nature Reserve in Yunnan Province, the number of Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys increased from about 2,000 in 1988, when the nature reserve was established, to about 2,500 in 2014. Additionally, new populations of rare and endangered species have been found at several localities. The Tibet red deer, which had been considered extinct, was rediscovered in Sangri County, Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1995, and its number is increasing. The Burmese snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopith ecusstrykeri), one of the most endangered species, was found at the Gaoligong Mountain National Nature Reserve in Yunnan Province. The Sichuan Jay (Perisoreus internigrans) was found at the Gahai-Zecha National Nature Reserve in Gansu Province.

Improvement of the wildlife habitats is the basis for protecting biodiversity. The improvement of vegetation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has improved the environmental quality of local wildlife habitats. From 1998 to 2009, marked improvement had been observed in the vegetation of core areas of the Mount Qomolangma National Nature Reserve in Tibet Autonomous Region. Since 2005, at the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve in Qinghai Province, desertification has been contained, the area of wetlands has been increased, vegetation has improved, wildlife habitat fragmentation has been slowed, and the eco-environment has notably improved. In the Gahai-Zecha National Nature Reserve in Qinghai Province, the area of the Gahai Lake increased from 480 ha in 2003 to 2,354 ha in 2013, and has maintained a coverage in excess of 2,000 ha in recent years; this increase in the water surface area has helped water fowl to survive and multiply.

Key eco-projects have produced preliminary results.

In 2009, the state approved the Plan for the Protection and Construction of the Eco-safety Barrier in Tibet (2008-2030). By the end of 2017, 10 projects concerning ecological conservation, construction, and support had been implemented, with a total investment of RMB9.6 billion. The first-stage project (2008-2014) completed the framework of Tibet's eco-projects; several key projects have begun to yield notable ecological effects; local ecosystem service functions improved steadily; and the functions of the ecological barrier remained stable and showed continuous improvement.

In 2005, China launched a project for the ecological conservation and construction of Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve; by the end of 2017, the total investment amounted to RMB8 billion. By the end of the first-stage of the project in 2013, grassland degradation had been contained; water and wetland ecosystems had been restored; and water conservation and water supply capacity in river basins had improved. Compared with 2004, the Yangtze River, Yellow River, and Lancang River provided their lower reaches with additional 5.8 billion cu m of quality water annually on the average – a forceful support for regional social and economic development.

<  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  >