A summary of the achievements of China's wetland protection and restoration, and its development strategies

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn by Zhang Weilan, August 17, 2023
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Since 2012, China has implemented a series of wetland protection and restoration plans as part of its efforts in the comprehensive protection of wetlands. More effective wetland protection must be based on scientific theoretical knowledge and the summarization of advanced technologies and practices, Zhu Hui, researcher of Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), notes in her article released by the Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences (BCAS, in Chinese), a think tank journal supervised and sponsored by the CAS, which focuses on strategic and decision-making research.

Based on research, survey and practices, this paper systematically sorts out the major achievements in China’s wetland protection, comprehensively summarizes the advanced technologies and practices in wetland protection and restoration, management, and proper utilization, and proposes relevant suggestions on the research and management of the protection and restoration of wetland ecosystems in the country.

Wetlands represent one of the ecological systems with most prominent functional attributes for the “five banks” namely, seed bank, reservoir, carbon pool, grain depot, and coffer. However, due to the combined impact of climate change and human activities, global wetlands have experienced major degradation that resulted in a total loss of 3.4 × 106 km2 inland wetlands. China had a wetland area of about 41.2 × 104 km2 in 2020, the largest in Asia, with the area of marsh accounting for 39.5% of the total. As the article continues, due to cultivation, reclamation, transformation, environmental pollution, and excessive exploitation of biological resources, the areas of wetlands in China decreased by up to 8.82% from 2003 to 2013.

Guided by policies and scientific research, the paper says, China has been committed to the protection, restoration, and rebuilding of wetlands, to maintain their ecological security. As the report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) points out, important arrangements for the ecological conservation in the new era have been made, and China needs to carry forward green development and harmonious coexistence between human beings and nature. In the new historical period, national ecological security, food security, water security, and the “carbon peaking and carbon neutrality” goals have set higher standards for the protection, restoration, and management of wetlands in China.

As the paper introduces, in recent years, China has worked out several wetland protection and restoration plans as part of its effort in the comprehensive protection of wetland, which has led to new achievements in wetland protection in history. For instance, measures such as returning farmland to wetlands, returning ponds to wetlands, and establishing wetland reserves and parks have well alleviated human pressure, reduced the rate of wetland loss, and improved their ecological functions.

By 2021, more than 600 wetland nature reserves and 1,600 wetland parks had been built in China. By 2023, 82 wetlands of international importance had been established, ranking fourth in the world in total area; the percentage of wetlands under protection in China has now exceeded 52%.

What’s more, the development of artificial wetlands in China has also become increasingly scientific and standardized. Wetlands are playing a more and more important role in the national water environment protection system.

In addition, China has scored remarkable achievements in the building of wetland research platforms. At the international level, China is deeply engaged in the issues concerning the Convention on Wetlands and the relevant rulemaking and actively conducts international cooperation, thus offering advanced experience and successful cases for international wetland protection. Meanwhile, nationally, a field station, namely the “National Wetland Research Center,” was established in 2019, which serves as an important base for field observation experiment, scientific research and demonstration in the field of wetland protection and restoration in China.

The paper also indicates, with the all-round advance of ecological conservation, China’s commitment to faster green development has brought opportunities for the sustainable utilization of wetlands. In the past decade, the development tailored to local conditions has brought many typical success cases and models on the scientific utilization of wetland resources.

Technologies also play an important role in supporting the implementation of national ecological restoration projects. Ecological engineering and restoration technologies have been implemented, to restore the stability, multiple functions and diverse services of wetlands.

For the purpose of developing wetland protection in current period, the author proposes three main solutions to implement strategic action of wetland protection to meet the national demand, to improve the basic theory and discipline system of wetland science, to innovate and improve the wetland protection and restoration technologies as well as the engineering measures, and to strengthen the building of highland of talent in wetland research and the think-tanks of wetland management.

First, it is recommended to make protection-related policies for different types of wetlands to achieve a balance in the total amount and functional stability of wetlands. Based on the current needs of ecological protection and the new stage of development, China should make in-depth efforts in the implementation of wetland protection and restoration projects in major national strategic regions.

Second, efforts should be made to improve the basic theories and disciplinary system of wetland-related science; strengthen basic theoretical research on wetlands to disclose the unique laws of wetlands.

Third, it is needed to strengthen the scientific formulation of wetland restoration goals, basic theoretical research on restoration techniques and methods, and scientific judgment of restoration effects and stability.

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