Outcomes of the Second National Wetland Resources Survey
State Forestry Administration
13 January 2014
China completed the first National Wetland Resources Survey in 2003 to meet the needs of wetland conservation and administration and better implement the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in China. This survey helped us get the basic information of wetlands larger than 100 hectares. In the past decade, economic and social development has brought notable changes to China’s wetland ecology. The State Forestry Administration conducted the second National Wetland Resources Survey between 2009 and 2013 in order to get accurate information on China’s wetland resources and their ecological changes, to make and improve conservation and administration policies, and to develop major ecological rehabilitation plans.
According to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the second national survey decided to investigate acreages, types, distribution, plantation, and conservation status of all wetlands no smaller than eight hectares as well as river wetlands wider than ten meters and longer than five kilometers. We also carried out key surveys on bio-diversity, ecology, utilization and the levels of threat they face on wetlands of international importance, wetlands of national importance, natural reserves, small natural reserves, wetlands in wetland parks, and other wetlands with special conservation value that are endemic, inhabited by endangered species or by mangrove forests.
203 national and provincial institutions as well as more than 22,000 technical people participated in this survey. The survey combined 3S technologies (namely remote-sensing, geographical information system and global positioning system) and field surveys. The survey partitioned 276,200 wetland patches, 3,391 wetland areas, and 1,579 key wetlands. The survey also set up 72,227 plots for surveying plants and 14,044 belt transects and plots for surveying animals. The survey got 260 million pieces of data.
The survey has the following major outcomes. First, it got the acreage, distribution and conservation status of all wetlands within the survey scope in line with the standards of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Second, it got the information on the ecology, wide animal and plant resources, conservation and utilization, social and economic development and threatened status of wetlands of international importance, wetlands of national importance, natural reserves, wetland parks, and other important wetlands. Third, it got information on the dynamic changes of the acreage, conservation status and threatened status of wetlands larger than 100 hectares in the past decade. Fourth, it set up a regular professional wetland resources survey team and expert group. Fifth, it developed a complete series of technical regulation on wetland resource surveys.
China’s total acreage of wetlands stands at 53.6026 million hectares and its wetland ratio at 5.58%. Among them, the total acreage of wetlands within the survey scope stands at 53.4206 million hectares, the acreage of wetlands in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan stands at 182,000 hectares according to information we collect. In addition, according to China Statistical Yearbook 2011, China’s rice paddies stands at 30.057 million hectares. The acreage of natural wetlands is 46.6747 million hectares, accounting for 87.37%; the acreage of artificial wetlands stand at 6.7459 million hectares, accounting for 12.64%. In natural wetlands, the acreage of coastal wetlands stands at 5.7959 million hectares, accounting for 12.42%; the acreage of river wetlands stands at 10.5521 million hectares, accounting for 22.61%; the acreage of river wetlands stands at 8.5938 million hectares, accounting for 18.41%, and the acreage of marshes stands at 21.7329 million hectares, accounting for 46.56%.
According to first-order river basin in The National Master Plan of Water Resources, the acreages of wetlands in first-order rivers basins are as follows: the northwest rivers basin has 16.5278 million hectares of wetlands, the southwest rivers basin has 2.1081 million hectares of wetlands, the Songhua River basin has 9.2807 million hectares of wetlands, the Liaohe River basin has 1.922 million hectares of wetlands, the Huaihe River basin has 3.6763 million hectares of wetlands, the Yellow River basin has 3.9292 million hectares of wetlands, the southeast rivers basin has 1.8588 million hectares of wetlands, the Pearl River basin has 3.0082 million hectares of wetlands, the Yangtze River basin has 9.4568 million hectares of wetlands, and the Haihe River basin has 1.6527 million hectares of wetlands.
By province, the distribution of wetlands is as follows:
Table Acreages of Wetlands in All Provinces, Autonomous Regions and Municipalities Unit: 10,000 hectares
The second national survey shows that China has initially put in place a wetland conservation system including, first and foremost, wetland natural reserves, wetland parks, small natural reserves, and other conservation areas. The survey shows that the acreage of wetlands under the wetland conservation system stands at 23.2432 million hectares, accounting for 43.51% of total wetlands. Among them, the acreage of natural wetlands under protection stands at 21.1568 million hectares, accounting for 45.33% of total natural wetlands in China.
In the past decade between the two national surveys, China’s wetland resources have three major changes:
1. Wetland acreages under each category have declined. We compare wetlands of same type, same scope and same coverage in the two national surveys, and find that China’s wetland acreage has declined by 3.3963 million hectares in the last decade. Among them, the acreage of natural wetlands has declined by 3.3762 million hectares, a decrease of 9.33%. In addition, it is a prominent problem that a large area of river and lake wetlands has been converted into marshes and river wetlands into artificial reservoirs and ponds.
2. The acreage of wetlands under conservation has increased. The acreage of wetlands under conservation increased by 5.2594 million hectares, an increase from 30.49% to 43.51%. In the last decade, we have added 25 new wetlands of international importance, built 279 new wetland natural reserves and 468 new wetland parks. We have put in place a primary complete system of wetland conservation
3. Wetlands have come under growing threats and pressures. According to our survey in key wetlands, the three factors affecting wetland ecology ten years ago—pollution, land reclamation and illegal hunting have been expanded into five factors—pollution, excessive fishing and gathering, land reclamation, invasion of alien species, and occupation by infrastructure. The frequency of threatening factors has increased by 38.72%. Major threatening factors as well as their frequency and acreage are on the rise.
In the past decade, the CPC central committee and the State Council have paid more attention to wetland protection. For example, the State Council has approvedThe National Wetlands Conservation Program (2002-2030) and its implementation plans from 2006 to 2010 and from 2011 to 2015, and issued The Notice on Strengthening Wetland Conservation and Administration; the first documents released by the CPC central committee and the Reports on the Work of the Government in each of the past five years all put forward requirements on wetland protection; the central forestry working conference proposed to set up a compensation mechanism for ecological benefits of wetlands; the report of the 18th CPC National Congress stressed the importance of “expanding forests, lakes and wetlands and protecting bio-diversity”. To implement these major and strategic decisions, the State Forestry Administration has worked hard along with other central government departments and local governments in wetland conservation and administration, which has promoted better wetland protection to some extent.
However, this survey also shows that China faces the following acute challenges in protecting wetland resources.
1. Wetland bio-diversity is deteriorating. Due to such factors as pollution and excessive herding, wetland ecological functions are declining and wetland bio-diversity is deteriorating. Take birds in wetlands for example. Bird types recorded in the two national surveys have declined, and more than half of all the types of birds experience notable decrease in their populations.
2. Gaps in wetland conservation remain large. In the past decade, China has gradually set up a conservation system for wetland ecology. Despite increase in wetland ratio, many important wetlands such as national key ecological functional areas, migrant birds’ flyways in wetlands, origins of major rivers, and ecologically fragile and sensitive areas have not been fully incorporated into the conservation system. For example, only 51.52%wetlands in national key ecological functional areas are under conservation and only 66.52% national key wetlands are under conservation. Given these gaps, we still face a daunting task in protecting China’s wetland.
3. In legislation and regulation, China has not promulgated a national regulation dedicated to wetland conservation (although it has 18 provincial legislations) and has not put in place a long-term wetland conservation mechanism. Science and technology available for wetland conservation remains weak. The general public needs to be more aware of the importance of wetland conservation.
In general, China still faces a severe challenge in protecting wetlands. This has put a serious restraint on rapid economic and social development. The whole country needs to pay more attention and give more support to wetland conservation. To implement the decisions in the report of the 18th CPC National Congress on “expanding wetland acreage”, the State Forestry Administration will focus on the overall ecological objective, vigorously promote wetland legislation, improve the wetland conservation and administration system, step up publicity and education, expand the acreage of wetlands under conservation, give full play to the role of wetlands in maintaining ecological security, addressing climate change, and improving people’s eco-livelihood.
First, we need to step up legislation and institutional building. China should promulgate The National Wetlands Conservation Regulation as quickly as possible to clearly define powers and responsibilities, administration procedure and code of conduct in wetland conservation. It should set up the red line in wetland conservation, improve the compensation system for wetland ecology and introduce wetland administration by category.
Second, we will implement ecological rehabilitation project. We will implement the 12th Five-Year Implementation Plan ofThe National Wetlands Conservation Program (2002-2030), step up conservation, rehabilitation and comprehensive treatment of key wetlands, and expand the acreage of wetlands. In implementing major ecological rehabilitation projects, priority will be given to important wetlands in national key ecological functional areas, migrant birds’ flyways in wetlands.
Third, we will improve the wetland conservation system. We will further improve the wetland conservation system including, first and foremost, wetland natural reserves, wetland parks, and small natural reserves. We will further strengthen wetland conservation and administration agencies at all levels, improve the organization, coordination, guidance and supervision of wetland conservation and administration, and promote capacity building.
Fourth, we need to fully play out the role of science and technology. We will carry out scientific research in key fields, and develop key technologies for wetland conservation and rehabilitation technologies to serve major ecological rehabilitation projects in a large scale. We will set up a technical consulting mechanism on sound decision making concerning wetland conservation.
Fifth, we should enhance the awareness of the general public. We will carry out publicity on wetland conservation and enhance the public awareness of the acute challenges China faces. We hope people from all sections of the society will get involved in and support wetland conservation and wetland conservation will be gradually incorporated into the performance assessment of party committees and governments at all levels.