Yangtze River & Lakes
About the Area
The flora and fauna are adapted to these cycles as fish mix freely between lakes during flooding and terrestrial mammals swim to seek high ground. Poyang Lake, one of the largest lakes, serves as winter habitat for numerous waterfowl species.
The Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, was once well-known along much of the central and lower Yangtze. However, rapid development in the Yangtze basin, which is home to more than 400 million people, has put immense pressure on the river's ecosystem and its unique biodiversity. Today, the baiji is functionally extinct.
Conservation efforts were too late to save the baiji; to avoid a repeat of this tragedy, serious efforts are underway to protect the Yangtze finless porpoise, which numbers between 1,200 and 1,800 in the basin.
Among the numerous threatened fish species are the Yangtze sturgeon (Acipenser dabryanus), Chinese sturgeon (A. sinensis), and the Chinese swordfish (Psephurus gladius). Other vertebrates include the largest salamander in the world, Audrias davidianus, Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), and the highly endangered Yangtze alligator (Alligator sinensis).
Fish farming, deforestation, cultivation of surrounding land for farming and grazing, pollution, oil drilling, industrialisation, urbanisation, and introduced diseases from domestic waterfowl pose widespread threats to this ecoregion. The most pressing and severe threat is construction of dams and dikes on the Yangtze and its tributaries, which alter the natural flow regime, block migratory routes, and sever the connection between the rivers and their floodplain habitats.
1,613,378 sq. km (622,925 sq. miles)
Asia - flowing west to east through China
What can be done?
To save the endangered Yangtze finless porpoise, WWF recommends:
- Banning fishing year-round in key reserves for at least 10 years, instead of the current annual three-month ban
- Reconnecting Yangtze mainstem to surrounding lake systems
- Ending the practice of widening and deepening the river for navigation
- Enforcing a maximum speed limit for ships passing through dolphin nature reserves