Forests of the Upper Yangtze

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 3 terrestrial ecoregions: Qin Ling Mountains deciduous forests; Daba Mountains evergreen forests; and Sichuan Basin evergreen broadleaf forests.

These forests support one of the richest arrays of temperate plant species in the world with forests that extend eastward from the Hengduan Mountains, across the northern Sichuan and Sha'anxi Provinces of south-central China.

Home to the endangered giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), the Southwest China Temperate Forests, known to be the refuge for many species during the last Ice Age, contain a wealth of other life forms too.

The Qinling Mountains form an important boundary between 2 of China's largest watersheds, the Chiangjiang (Yangtze River) and Huang He (Yellow River). Two nature reserves in the ecoregion, Foping and Changqing, are important in protecting the panda’s habitat in the Qinling Mountains.

According to a Chinese saying, ‘the road to Sichuan is harder than the road to heaven’.

Size:
390,000 sq. km (150,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

Geographic Location:
South-Central China

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species
The giant panda is the best-known species found here, inhabiting middle elevation forests that support a dense understory of bamboo. Today most of the giant pandas that survive in the wild occur in the Minshan mountain region to the west, but the temperate forests of this region also support good panda habitat.

Other important species that inhabit these forests include the vulnerable clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Chinese muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi) - a deer that barks like a dog at dusk, China's giant salamander - the world's largest, and the tufted deer (Elaphodus cephalophus).

Among the endemic bird species are golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus), copper pheasant (C. amherstiae), Temminck's tragopan (Tragopan temminkii), and the Reeve's long-tailed pheasant (Syrmaticus reevesi).

Shennongjia Mountain is supposedly the home of the yeren, or ‘wild man’, described as a reddish-colored, furry, apelike animal with human features. More than 2,600 species of vascular plants thrive in the Shennongjia Reserve, and 32 are under national protection.

Featured Species

The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) is the largest salamander in the world, and is fully aquatic. It grows up to 1.8 meters in length, though most individuals found today are considerably smaller. The skin is dark brown, black or greenish in color and irregularly blotched. It is also rough, wrinkled and porous which facilitates respiration through the skin as this large amphibian lacks gills. This species has an elongated body, and 4 legs which are roughly similar in size. The snout is less rounded than that of the related Japanese giant salamander and the tail is a little longer and broader. Both species have tubercles on the head and throat, though their arrangement is different.

This giant amphibian is generally active at night, when it relies on smell and touch to locate its prey. It lives in muddy, dark rock crevices along riverbanks and feeds on fish, smaller salamanders, worms, insects, crayfish and snails, catching them with a rapid sideways snap of the mouth. It has an extremely slow metabolism and can go for weeks without eating if necessary. During the day it retires beneath rocks. Both the Chinese and Japanese giant salamanders are long lived, with one specimen in captivity living for 52 years.

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Threats
Most natural places have been seriously modified by thousands of years of agriculture and commerce, and decades of heavy industry. The principle threats to this ecoregion include expanding agriculture and increasing demand for timber, both associated with a growing human population.

Over the past two decades, China's transition to a market economy has increased demand for non-timber forests and wildlife products for medicinal and other uses. A logging ban in the mountains of western Sichuan and increased conservation awareness by the government of China are positive signs for the future.
WWF’s work
For more than 40 years, WWF has been working tirelessly to conserve the natural wealth found here in the Asia-Pacific, using innovative ecoregion conservation visions to help bring long-term and lasting benefits for the people, wildlife and habitats of this vast, magnificent region.

China's Forests of the Upper Yangtze are a major priority for WWF's ecoregion conservation programme. As the first international environmental group allowed to work in China, WWF is putting its best science, conservation and field expertise to work protecting not only the pandas, but their forest home and the thousands of plants and animals within.

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