As the third biggest country of the world, its various geographical features and climates allowed China to have diverse natural environments that provided suitable habitats for a large variety of different species, including a great number of unique endemic species, for example, the giant panda. However, under the influence of the activity of human being, although China is regarded as one of the few countries with particularly rich biodiversity in the whole world, it is also one of the countries with the most serious loss of biodiversity. In order to alleviate this problem, Chinese government has adopted many measures, such as establishing nature reserve and formulating relevant laws. Nevertheless, we are still facing a lot of challenges that make the preservation of biodiversity a long-term process.
As the worlds third biggest country, china has a vast territory. With the total area of 9.6 million square kilometers, it stretches over 5 time zones horizontally and several climatic zones longitudinally, which are tropic, subtropic, and temperate zones; contains almost all terrains like plain, plateau, mountain land, hill, desert, and basin. China also has numerous rivers and lakes. More than 50,000 rivers that have areas exceed 100 square kilometers; more than 1,500 exceed 1,000 square kilometers. The most famous ones are the Yangtze River, the third-longest river in the world, and the yellow river, known as “the mother river of the Chinese people”. The vast region and these complex environments have provided China with various types of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, shrublands, grasslands and savannas, meadows, deserts and alpine tundra, and is subdivided into 599 sub-types due to different climatic and soil conditions. There are also various types of marine and freshwater ecosystems.
China is one of the most biodiverse countries, which has has more than 30,000 species of higher plants and 6,347 species of vertebrates, about 10% and 14% of the total amount in the whole world respectively. About 17,300 species of the higher plants and 667 of the vertebrates are endemic species which are unique in china. Among the 15 families and 850 species of gymnosperms in the world, there are 10 families and about 250 species in China, making it the country with the most gymnosperms. Besides a large variety of wild species, China also has many cultivated or domesticated species and their wild relatives. There are more than 11,000 kinds of medicinal plants and 4215 kinds of pasture in total. As the origin of rice and soybeans, China has 50,000 and 20,000 species of the two crops respectively.
China has several endemic species that are famous all over the world. And the most famous among these species is the giant panda, which is even been used as the logo of WWF, the global conservation organization. The giant panda species was once been listed into the endangered species by IUCN(International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). It is nice to see that through continuous efforts made by Chinese government and relevant international organizations, the giant panda species has been successfully erased from the list and became vulnerable species. According to the most recent survey, the amount of adult wild panda in the whole world is 1,864, which is 16.8% increased since the last survey in 2003. However, it is still difficult to save pandas out from the list of vulnerable species. IUCN had warned that the increasing situation of panda amount is just a short-term phenomenon: since 1/3 of the bamboo amount will be decrease by climate change in 80 years, the pandas will suffer famine and decrease in amount again.
Another popular Chinese endemic species is the south china tiger, which is already critically endangered. It used to be the oldest and most widely distributed tiger species in China, with the largest number. According to WFF, in the early 1950s, the south china tiger population is used to be about 4,000. However, even if the Chinese government had banned hunting in 1979, the population was only about 30-80 individuals by 1996. Today they are mainly found zoos and haven’t been seen in the wild for more than 25 years. Some foreign experts believe that the south china tiger species is already extinct in the wild.
The troubling fact is that not only these two unique species, a lot of other Chinese endemic species are also endangered or already died out. The Baiji dolphin, is one of the only 5 freshwater dolphin species that only could be found in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River in China. It even has lasted longer in the world than the “live fossil” panda. However, until 2002 the number of Baiji was estimated less than 50. The Baiji needs enough food to live on. But human activities such as overfishing, water polluting and ship movement make it even harder for the rest to survive without enough food supply. Chinese Alligator is the only alligator species that now exist in China, which is also critically endangered. There are 25 species of crocodiles in the world, only two of them were in China: the Chinese alligators and Saltwater crocodiles. But as the world’s largest crocodile species, saltwater crocodiles have long been extinct hundreds of years ago. And the brown eared pheasant, a kind of large brown pheasant, had been listed into the “IUCN red list of threatened species” as well. There are many other species that could have been unique to China’s and even to the whole world’s biodiversity, such as the Chinese sturgeon, the black-necked crane and the Tibetan antelope. Nonetheless, most of them are under situations which are not optimistic.
As statistics given above, according to Living Planet Report-China 2015, even though China is one of the most biodiverse countries, it is also one of the countries with the most serious loss of biodiversity. The number of terrestrial vertebrates in China has dropped by half during 1970-2010, while the ecological footprint has doubled in the same period. China is facing severe ecological challenges. The ecological footprint is the measurement of the human demand for biological capacity. That is an indicator of how many natural resources human have consumed during the living process and the development of the economy, and how large the geographical should be to meet the need of such an amount of resources correspondingly. The unit of the ecological footprint is the global hectare (gha). 1 global hectare is 1 hectare of productive space which is able to produce the global average yield. the executive director of WWF Beijing office, Li Lin said at a press conference that the results from the researches are worrisome,. She believes that since the 1970s, the ecological footprint of mankind has already exceeded the bio-carrying capacity of the earth. By 2010, the global per capita ecological footprint has reached 2.6 gha, while the per capita biocapacity was only 1.7 gha. In 2010, China’s per capita ecological Footprint was 2.2 gha. “If everybody on this planet has the same ecological footprint as the average Chinese do, we need about 1.3 times of our planet to support our natural needs,” said Li Lin.
It can be seen that the overpopulation and overuse of natural resources are the deadliest cause of the sharp decline in biodiversity. The main threats to biodiversity caused by human activities, as China’s Fifth National Report on the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity listed, are: Degradation or loss of habitats, Excessive exploitation of natural resources, Environmental pollution, Climate change, and so on.
Degradation or loss of habitats: Habitats for wild animals and plants, such as forests, grasslands and wetlands, have suffered various degrees of damage, such as road construction, resource development, hydropower construction and other activities, which directly threaten the breeding of species and populations.
Excessive exploitation of natural resources: Overgrazing leads to grassland degradation and desertification. overfishing has accelerated the depletion of fishery resources and has also led to the endangerment of some species. Although the Chinese government has been perfecting relevant laws, illegal trade in wildlife or national-level protected species still exists. And is even rampant in some areas.
Water pollution directly threatens aquatic biodiversity: Although overall the quality of the marine environment in China is still good, the pollution in the coastal and inland waters is still serious, affecting marine biodiversity and causing various marine ecological disasters such as red tide. The use of pesticides, fertilizers, and pesticides has also caused more and more serious environmental pollution. And the most serious pollution that now faced by Chinese people is the air pollution caused by PM2.5, which affects not only other species but also ourselves.
Climate change: Climate change has changed the behaviors of species, such as distribution and migration. this caused the disappearance of some species in their original habitats, which directly led to the loss of biodiversity.
To ease this situation the Chinese government has already put some policies into action:
1) Strengthen the protection system
a. Establish situ conservation areas such as forest parks, agricultural wild plant protection spots, wetland parks, geoparks, and marine protection zones. By the end of 2013, 2697 nature reserves had been established nationwide with an area of about 1,463,000 square kilometers. The nature reserves cover about 14.8% of China’s land area.
b. Strengthen the rescue of endangered species. to rescue and conserve endangered wild animals and plants, with the development of endangered species breeding techniques, habitat restoration, and other measures make some critically endangered wild species gradually get rid of the red list.
2) carry out habitat protection and restoration
Continue to carry out the natural forest resources protection, returning farmland to forest, repairing overgrazed grasslands, Beijing and Tianjin sand source management, wetland protection and restoration, and other key ecological projects. Since 2001, the ecological conditions in the key construction areas have been significantly improved. The national forest resources have continued to grow. The forest area has increased by 23.0% over 10 years. The forest coverage rate has risen by 3.8%. A number of important international and national Wetlands have been rescued and about half of the natural wetlands have been effectively protected. The implementation of key ecological projects has promoted the restoration of habitats of degraded ecosystems and wild species and effectively protected biological diversity.
3)Develop and implement incentives that are conducive to biodiversity conservation
In order to avoid negative impacts on biodiversity and the environment, the Chinese government canceled export tax rebates for 553 high-energy-consuming, high-pollution, and resource-based products in 2007, including endangered animals, plants and their products, leather, some wood and disposable Wood products and so on.
traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of , but at the same time, the main ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine are derived from wild animals and plants. And of 1,500 animal species that Chinese medicine currently uses, 60% of them are vertebrates and 40% are listed in the Chinese Protection Directory. In addition, we used to have a Red List of Chinese Species that contains 388 species of plants, all of which are endangered species, but about 20% of them are common herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.
Our dam construction is also a problem. The dams in our country make up 45% of the total number of dams in the world. This figure is very impressive. There are still 70 more than 50,000 kilowatts of dams in planning. The planned area include the world’s biodiversity hotspots, such as the Hengduan Mountains. We used to have a dam in Qinghai Lake. Yellow croaker, which was originally the main economic fish of the area, was originally migrated there. But because of the dams, thousands of yellow croakers died in one day.
Over all, the Chinese government has stepped up its efforts to protect biodiversity by improving protection policies, strengthening protection systems, restoring degraded ecosystems, controlling environmental pollution, strengthening scientific and technological research, promoting public participation and increasing capital input, and intensifying ecological damage. As a result, the ecosystem functions of some regions have been restored and the populations of some key protected species have increased. However, we still need to come up with more ideas in order to conserve the biodiversity as much as possible, including to correct some inappropriate acts in a timely manner..
My report on China’s biodiversity begins with an overview of China’s overall physical and geographical conditions and its corresponding biodiversity. Then details the biodiversity with several endemic but endangered species, the giant panda, south China tigers, etc. Influenced by many factors, such as overpopulation, China is regarded as one of the countries with particularly rich biodiversity but also one of the countries with the most serious loss of biodiversity. The country is facing severe ecological challenges like ecosystem degradations. Even if we have found the right solution on some of the issues, such as the protection of our national treasure giant panda or the preservation of certain habitats, there are still many problems that are neglected or temporarily unresolved. Chinese traditional medicine is still using endangered species as ingredients, but its lack of scientific evidence. We are constructing dams everywhere, which is leading to more serious problems.