From the perspective of biodiversity standards

How much do you know about the potential areas of China's application for World Heritage (see · World Heritage)

  Among the 10 criteria of "Outstanding Universal Value" of World Heritage, items (ⅸ) and (ⅹ) focus on biodiversity and are one of the important criteria for evaluating world natural heritage.

  Many of China's natural heritage and mixed cultural and natural heritage listed on the World Heritage List meet the standards of biodiversity.

  With the continuous advancement of World Heritage protection, what other potential areas for biodiversity application in China?

Biodiversity in many places far exceeds conventional wisdom

  In 2016, the World Natural Heritage Research Team of Peking University, together with the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing Normal University and other units, launched the national key research and development project "China's Natural Heritage Value Evaluation and Potential Area Screening (2016YFC0503301)" research.

After 5 years of scientific research work, the project has successfully passed various results assessments in 2021.

  The research results show that the two flanks of the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang, the southeastern part of Tibet, the Hengduan Mountains, especially its northeastern, eastern and southern parts, and the Ailao Mountains in Yunnan, especially the primary forest patches to the west and south of the Honghe River, are bird species. and important habitats for mammals, and can be regarded as a potential area for biodiversity application.

The vast northern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Greater and Lesser Xing'an Mountains and the Changbai Mountains in Northeast China are important habitats for large mammals, especially large carnivores and ungulates, and can also be identified as potential areas for biodiversity application.

  Wen Cheng, a member of the World Heritage Expert Committee of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration, as one of the key members of the research and development project team, participated in the whole process of the scientific research. He said: "This result is not surprising. With a vast area and a single plot of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, it is rich in species resources and is subject to little interference from human activities. The hotspot area is also the area that people most easily think of when they mention 'biodiversity', which is in line with people's long-standing traditional cognition of 'what places are worth protecting' in China's biological and ecological regions."

  This research has made another important discovery: in the eastern and southern parts of China with rapid economic development and dense population, there are actually many important habitats for wild animals; they also have the potential to apply for biodiversity standards.

Identify the "Potential Areas for Application for World Heritage" by "Key Biodiversity Areas"

  These newly revealed potential areas are manifested as forests, grasslands, wetlands and even farmland from middle and low altitude mountainous areas and plains to coastal areas, such as the Zhongtiao Mountain-Taihang Mountain-Yanshan part, the southeast coastal part of the mountain, the Songnen Plain, the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea Wetlands along the coast, the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, especially the Dongting Lake and Poyang Lake areas.

These areas are usually isolated from each other, with small areas and fragmented plaques.

The smallest potential area plots are even only square kilometers in size.

  "That is to say, the richness of biodiversity in many parts of China is actually far beyond people's traditional perception. Maybe it is an inconspicuous farmland you pass by, a barren grassland along a river or lake, or an undeveloped piece of land. Wetlands and tidal flats." Wen Cheng described, "For biodiversity conservation, not only those inaccessible areas where giant pandas, snow leopards, Siberian tigers, and Tibetan antelopes live have extremely high conservation value. 'Small plots' also have extremely high conservation value, no less than the vast wilderness of northeast and northwest China, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Hengduan Mountains."

  This research provides people with a new understanding: the potential areas for biodiversity application are located in all provinces of China.

  It is particularly worth mentioning that the researchers found that the Yushan Mountains in the central part of Taiwan Province of China echo the mountains of Wuyi Mountain and Hengduan Mountain, and have similar biodiversity application value.

  How are these potential biodiversity application areas identified?

The scientific research team drew on the latest global identification and evaluation standard system for "key biodiversity areas", and conducted a comprehensive analysis based on the latest research data in China.

  Key biodiversity areas refer to areas of special significance for global biodiversity conservation.

Such areas have high species richness, a large number of endemic species, and concentrated important protection objects; or they have an irreplaceable role in the continuation of global or geographic populations of some endangered species.

  In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published identification criteria for key biodiversity areas.

Among them, the assessment criteria based on species and ecosystem integrity are in common with items (ⅸ) and (ⅹ) of the World Heritage criteria.

Areas that are conceptually compatible with key biodiversity areas, such as key international bird areas, are used as prerequisites for screening and recommending potential areas for biodiversity application.

That is to say, "key biodiversity areas" can be used as a basic reference for judging whether it can become a potential area for biodiversity application.

  "However, taking IUCN as an example, the data on China's key biodiversity areas on record is still more than ten years old. Its timeliness has lagged far behind." Wen Cheng introduced that since 2017, the scientific research team has cooperated with professional institutions every year. , comprehensively collect domestic and foreign data, and update the distribution map of nearly 1,400 species of birds and more than 120 species of terrestrial mammals in China.

In this way, the researchers can calculate how many species of birds and mammals may be distributed in every 1 km square grid in China's land space; then, from the superimposed results, extract the top 5% with the highest bird abundance Areas, or areas in which at least one endangered, critically endangered bird or mammal lives and are irreplaceable, thereby identifying new key biodiversity areas.

  "Key Biodiversity Areas" are not equivalent to "Biodiversity Application Potential Areas".

Whether it is possible to apply for natural heritage, it must also meet various criteria such as value, integrity and protection management.

The research team further comprehensively considered the requirements for protection management and integrity of the Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, weighed the priority of ecological protection in social development and other factors, and finally selected the biodiversity application that suits China's national conditions. potential area.

The Summer Palace and Peking University campuses may become "potential areas"

  In the results of the "China Natural Heritage Value Evaluation and Potential Area Screening" project, the biodiversity application potential areas are densely distributed in various areas on the map of China.

In the western region, the ecosystem is relatively complete, so a large area of ​​red marks can be seen on the map; if you do not zoom in and observe, it is very easy to ignore the potential areas for application in central and eastern China - they are all too "small" And scattered.

There is a dense population and high intensity of human activities, so the key areas of biodiversity and the potential areas for application are not continuous or vast, and are scattered in the shape of "dots".

  Shuinan Village, located in Taihu Town, Tongzhou District, Beijing, is such an area.

The village being demolished has an open field. Although the area is only 1.5 square kilometers, large and small woodlands are scattered in it, farmland and grassland are connected to each other, and the Liangshui River winds through the south of the village.

  Since 2017, four great bustards that spend the winter here all year round have attracted people's attention, first attracting many bird watchers and bird photographers.

The great bustard is a national first-class protected wild animal and is included in the "World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species".

Since 2017, there has been a complete observation record of Great Bustard overwintering.

Since 2015, Shuinan Village has recorded a total of 264 species of birds, of which 45 are rare and endangered species.

From the map of key biodiversity areas, an area along the Liangshui River, including Shuinan Village, belongs to the top 5% of bird richness areas.

  As a result, these fields and fields, which we now turn a blind eye to, are extremely valuable to conservation biology researchers.

"Once the contiguous area of ​​these open fields reaches the order of square kilometers, a large number of cranes and geese will come to inhabit, becoming wildlife habitats with high conservation value, and even meeting the standards of key biodiversity areas. " Wen Cheng said.

  Plots like Shuinan Village can be seen everywhere.

In the ecological space along several major river basins such as Wenyu River, Chaobai River, Yongding River and North Canal that flow through Beijing, as well as in the western and northern suburbs of Beijing, there are areas of the same type.

Beijing itself is located at the intersection of the four major migratory bird migration areas.

Any wetland with a certain area and surrounding open grassland or farmland will naturally become a paradise for wild animals.

In the western suburbs of Beijing, the Summer Palace, a world cultural heritage site, was built on such a plot.

The Summer Palace and the surrounding Yuanmingyuan and Yanyuan, which have profound cultural heritage, belong to the top 5%-10% areas in the country for bird abundance.

  In the entire coastal areas of China, especially all areas near natural tidal flats and estuary deltas along the Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea, they are also important habitats for birds.

"Almost every river, big or small, has an important biological habitat at the estuary." Wen Cheng said.

Although these places are densely populated and highly active in economic activities, in fact, they have also become the main concentrated distribution areas of internationally threatened birds, and thus become key areas of biodiversity.

Among them, those that meet the requirements of protection management and integrity have become the potential areas for application for heritage; some plots of particular importance for protection have become world heritage sites in recent years.

  Take the world natural heritage "China's Yellow (Bo) Sea Migratory Bird Habitat (Phase 1)" as an example, before being included in the "World Heritage List", a large tidal flat in the Tiaozini area has been reclaimed or is being developed.

“Twenty years ago, many people would not have realized that such untapped land would have irreplaceable global significance for biodiversity conservation. But these tidal flats – some with only a few hundred individuals – are now very much valued. Habitat for globally critically endangered species such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the Chinese Crested Tern.

  "There are still many such plots in eastern China." Wen Cheng repeatedly emphasized.

Valuing the remaining important biological habitats in densely populated areas

  The "Hu Huanyong Line" is a boundary that describes China's natural environment and human activities in geography and demography, and is also suitable for observing the distribution characteristics of potential biodiversity application areas.

  In the west of the "Hu Huanyong Line" and the Greater and Lesser Xing'an Mountains and Changbai Mountains in Northeast China, each potential area for biodiversity application has a complete ecosystem, with a large number and variety of large ungulates and large carnivores distributed.

Large ungulates include Tibetan wild ass, wild yak, Tibetan antelope, argali and various large deer; large carnivores include tigers, leopards, snow leopards, jackals, wolves, bears, etc.

These areas are vast "wilderness" or "wilderness" that has been naturally restored and artificially conserved in modern times. A relatively complete system of nature reserves has been established, including some national parks with an area of ​​tens of thousands of square kilometers.

Human activity is also relatively less disturbed.

  In these areas, some species that carry the "biodiversity application potential", such as the well-known "jackal, tiger and leopard", also spread to the east of the "Hu Huanyong Line" many years ago.

But today they have almost completely withdrawn from eastern China.

From the perspective of the community, there are no natural ecosystems with complete structure in the vast areas of eastern China - but this does not prevent the existence of important habitats for wild animals in eastern China.

  In the study of "Assessment of Natural Heritage Values ​​and Screening of Potential Areas in China", it was found that in the east of the "Hu Huanyong Line", there are still a large number of key biodiversity areas, except for the Greater and Lesser Xing'an Mountains and Changbai Mountains in the northeast.

There are no less than 20 species of rare and endangered vertebrates in the key biodiversity area of ​​every square kilometer, including those under national key protection or endemic to China, globally threatened or listed as vulnerable, endangered, extremely endangered species.

These areas are the most important and irreplaceable sanctuaries for endangered species.

The periphery of these areas is often surrounded by human urban construction and agricultural and forestry production land.

Therefore, it also faces enormous pressure from human activities.

  The study found that these areas and surrounding areas still have huge biodiversity carrying capacity and restoration potential.

  This research provides important and intuitive scientific understanding, making people realize that there are many rare and endangered species living together in the surrounding area in daily life, and even from the perspective of world heritage, they can form a potential area for application.

Those plots located in densely populated areas often have not yet established any type of nature reserves, or have some scenic spots and green spaces.

But judging from the results of conservation biology researchers, the biodiversity in these plots has not received enough attention.

  "Our cities and villages were established in areas with historically extremely rich biodiversity. The pattern of key biodiversity areas and potential areas for application in the densely populated areas of eastern China shows that in areas with high intensity of human activities, As long as there are certain conditions for natural restoration, a high level of biodiversity can be achieved." Wen Cheng said, "For example, the Summer Palace is a world cultural heritage. When tourists wander at this time, they mainly appreciate its cultural heritage value. Few people pay attention to the biodiversity of the Summer Palace and the nearby Xishan. In fact, this is an important migration channel for birds of prey and water birds in the world. Every spring and autumn, a large number of water birds and birds of prey pass by or stop by the Summer Palace. Endangered species like pochard and steppe eagle."

  "If the Summer Palace and the surrounding natural parks and green spaces can meet the requirements of world heritage protection and management in terms of biodiversity protection, the Summer Palace and its surrounding areas can naturally become a potential area for biodiversity application."

International Day for Biological Diversity (read more)

  May 22 every year is the International Day for Biological Diversity.

  "Biodiversity" is the ecological complex formed by organisms (animals, plants, microorganisms) and the environment and the sum total of various ecological processes related to it, including three levels of ecosystem, species and gene.

  In 1972, the United Nations convened a conference on the human environment, and the participating countries signed the "Declaration on the Human Environment", and the protection of biological resources was included in the twenty-six principles.

In 1993, the "Convention on Biological Diversity" came into effect. The Convention established three major goals: the protection of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and reasonable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. new era.

  China has a vast territory, both land and sea, complex and diverse landforms and climates, and has nurtured rich and unique ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. One of the parties to the Convention on Diversity.

(Our reporter He Xinyu and Qixin)