Protection efficacy of national wetland reserves in China


Wetlands have the most abundant biodiversity, the highest carbon sequestration capacity, and the highest values for ecological services per unit area, of all the world’s ecosystems. Practice has shown that establishing reserves is the most effective way of protecting typical ecosystems and their biodiversity, and saving rare or endangered wildlife. The Chinese government’s policy is to protect wetland systems by establishing reserves that encompass a massive network of wetlands, including wetland nature reserves, internationally important wetlands, and wetland parks. Many are already established. The effect of protecting wetland nature reserves at the national level has not yet been reported. We used the latest database evaluating the protection value of wetland reserves, and remotely sensed wetland maps (1978–2008), developed by the same mapping specialists and based on the same classification system, and related environmental data, to evaluate the effects of protecting China’s national wetland reserves over the last 30 years. We conclude that (i) the total area of wetland in the national wetland reserves has decreased over the last 30 years to 8152.47 km2, and just 8% of China’s net decrease in wetlands; (ii) about 79% of the 91 national wetland reserves are in a poor condition. These are generally located around the Yangtze River, Eastern Coast, the Three Rivers Source, and Southwest China. Protection measures should be undertaken urgently in these areas. Only 15% of national wetland reserves are under sound protection, and these are generally located in the upper reaches of the Songhua River; (iii) although 88% of national wetland reserves are primitive (relatively natural), implying that the site selection has been scientific, a high percentage of national wetland reserves show early warning signs of decline and require urgent attention; (iv) based on our evaluation of protection effects and pressures on ecology, we have made a priority list of national wetland reserves, and propose several protection strategies.


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Correspondence to ZhenGuo Niu or Peng Gong.

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Zheng, Y., Zhang, H., Niu, Z. et al. Protection efficacy of national wetland reserves in China. Chin. Sci. Bull. 57, 1116–1134 (2012).

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  • remote sensing
  • wetlands
  • protection
  • ecology
  • early warning signs