For 2 centuries, the Yangtze has served as a transportation and commercial thoroughfare, and steamers can navigate as far as Yichang, 1,600 Km from the sea.
The Yangtze river basin accounts for 40% of China's freshwater resources, more than 70% of the country’s rice production, 50% of its grain, more than 70% of fishery production, and 40% of the China’s GDP.
In addition to its social and economic importance, the Yangtze river basin is a centre of immense biological wealth.
The Yangtze River, also called the Chang Jiang meaning ‘long river’, rises in the mountains of Qinghai Province on the Tibetan plateau, and flows 6,300 Km to the East China Sea, opening at Shanghai. Its catchment covers 1/5 of the land area in China.
The river is home to 350 fish species (including the giant Yangtze Sturgeon), of which 112 are endemic. In the main channel of the upper Yangtze alone, there are 261 fish species, 44 of which are found only in this region.
The Yangtze contains high crab biodiversity, and over 160 amphibian species. This basin is the sole habitat of the critically endangered Chinese Paddlefish, the endangered Finless Porpoise, and the now believed to be extinct Chinese River Dolphin, the most critically endangered cetacean in the world.
The most threatened crocodilian species in the world, the Chinese Alligator, is only found in the lower reaches of the Yangtze. This basin is home to other endangered charismatic species including the Giant Panda, the largest salamander in the world, Audrias davidianus
, the once-extirpated Pere David’s Deer now re-introduced from captive stock, and the critically endangered Siberian Crane.
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