China declares new protected areas
Totaling 1.8 million hectares - an area equivalent to more than one-third the size of Switzerland - these protected areas were created between 2002 and 2005. The government will add another 1 million hectares by 2010, bringing Heilongijang's total protected area cover to 6.4 million hectares, or 14 per cent of the province's territory.
"As our province is one of China’s - and the world’s - richest areas in terms of biodiversity, the Heilongjiang government is making it a priority to save our natural resources by establishing protected areas and managing them effectively," said Han Lian Sheng, Director of the Heilongjiang Forestry Department.
Heilongjiang province takes its name from the Heilong River, which forms a natural border between China and Russia. The province is home to one of the world's most distinctive temperate forests, and has one of the last stands of mixed temperate deciduous and conifer forests in east Asia.
It is also a critical area for conserving endangered animal and plant species, including yew trees (Taxus), Siberian tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), and leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis), as well as musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), brown bears (Ursos arctos), Asiatic black bears (U. tibethanus), and rare bird species such as the Siberian (Grus leucogeranus), and red-crowned cranes (G. japonensis).
These key species and their habitats are threatened by commercial logging, forest firests, poaching, wetland conversion, over-fishing, pollution, and dam construction.
"Because of the global significance of this exciting initiative, and its potential to help ensure the survival of a variety of endangered species in the wild, WWF has recognized it as a Gift to the Earth," said Prof Lars Kristoferson, Secretary General of WWF-Sweden. "We applaud the Chinese government and remain committed to working together with our partners for the future of this vital area."
A Gift to the Earth is WWF's highest accolade for applauding good conservation work. Each of these Gifts represents an important success within one or more of the global conservation priorities recognized by WWF including: protection of forest, freshwater, and marine ecosystems; endangered species; prevention of climate change; and elimination of toxic chemicals.
"The establishment of these new protected areas is a big step forward for both forest conservation and species protection in China," said Dr Zhu Chunquan, Director of WWF China's Forest programme.
"This Gift to the Earth is a great example for other conservation initiatives in China. We hope it will encourage our neighbours to create a cross-border 'Green Belt' in the Amur/Heilong ecoregion."
In addition to bringing 6.4 million hectares of protected areas in the Amur/Heilong Basin under protection by 2010, WWF offices in Mongolia, the Russian Far East, and China are also working to create a larger unified region of networked protected areas - a ‘green belt’ - set aside for conservation purposes.
Local communities in Heilongjiang province have participated in the establishment and monitoring of the newly protected areas, and will be involved in co-managing them. WWF and its partners will also work with local communities to develop sustainable livelihoods. The Gift to the Earth celebration, held in the province's capital, Harbin, will help strengthen conservation awareness amongst the local communities.
* WWF's Integrated Forest Conservation project in the Amur/Heilong ecoregion, initiated in July 2002, seeks to conserve those state-owned forests in north-east China and inner Mongolia that have high conservation value. It has already supported the creation of three protected areas – Dajiahe, Taipinggou, and Dongning Erduan – in Heilongjiang Province, and is helping to ensure that existing protected areas are effectively managed and maintained. It also supports one of China’s six national conservation programmes – the Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Development Programme.
* WWF has worked with the Heilongjiang provincial government to foster responsible forestry through promoting forest certification. Besides capacity building and field research, WWF has provided technical and financial support to the Youhao Forestry Bureau in the province. In January 2005, the Bureau, with a total forest area of 24,000ha, became China’s first state-owned forest to be certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme.
* WWF defines an ecoregion as a large unit of land or water containing a geographically distinct assemblage of species, natural communities, and environmental conditions. WWF’s Global 200 Ecoregions are a science-based ranking of the world’s most biologically outstanding and globally representative areas of biodiversity.
For further information:
Zhu Chuquan, Forest Director
WWF China Programme
Tel: +86 1370 128 8966
An Yan, Forest Programme Coordinator
WWF China Programme
Tel: +86 1350 121 0386