On the completion of the China Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan, according to the requirements of the “Convention on Biological Diversity”, this book China’s Biodiversity：A Country Study was compiled with the support of UNEP.
1. The richness and uniqueness of China’s biodiversity
China has a vast territory and broad sea area. Natural conditions are complex and varied .In addition, China is also characterized by a long geological history and most of her lands had been formed as early as the end of the Mesozoic. Thus, within her domain, occur many plant, animal and micro-organism species, and diverse ecological complexes. China is one of twelve “ megadiversity countries”. She is one of the main centers of origin for seed plants on earth, and inherited elements of the Northern Tertiary, Tethys Sea and the ancient south continent of Gondwanaland floras. Her animals are of Palaearctic and Oriental origins. There are more than 30,000 species of seed plants in China, next only to Brazil and Colombia and, thus, ranking third in the world. Among them, 250 species of gymnosperm have been recorded from China and is, thus, the country with the most abundant gymnosperms. China has over 6,300 species of vertebrates, including 1,244 species of birds (accounting for 13.7% of the world total), and occupies the premier position in the world. More than 3,862 species of fishes have been found in China (constituting 20.0% of the world total) and, again, standing at the forefront. A high level of endemism is characteristic of China’s biota. China has 667 endemic species of vertebrates (10.5% of the total number of native species), and 5 endemic families, 247 endemic genera, and more than 17,300 endemic species of seed plants. Large numbers of rare and valuable animals and plants, some of them being called “living fossils”, occur in China. The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), Lipotes vexillifer, Branchiostoma belcheri, Nautilus pompilius, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, Ginkgo biloba, Cathaya argyriphylla, and Cycas panzhihuaensis are well known examples.
The history of agriculture in China exceeds 7,000 years. A great variety of plants and animals have been exploited, utilized, cultivated, domesticated and bred by Chinese farmers. Their richness is unparalleled. Not only did many of them originate in China, but also large number of their wild prototypes and relatives can still be found there. China has more than 1,900 species and types of domesticated animals. The known species of economic trees exceed 1,000. There are about 50,000 varieties of rice and 20,000 soybeans. The total number of China’s cultivated and wild fruit trees ranks first in the world, and many of them either originated in China or is the center of their distributions. As well as various kinds of apples, pears and plums (Prunus spp.), there are persimmon (Diospyros kaki), Yangtao (Actinidia spp.), various citrus fruits (including Citrus sineness), and Lychee, Longan, Loquat and Red bayberry (Myrica rubra). They all originated in China. China has more than 11,000 species of medicinal and 4,200 species of forages plants. The important ornamental flowers that originated in China numbers 2,200 species. The wild prototypes and relatives of various plants with an economic value are numerous, but uncounted.
According to preliminary counts, China has 212 categories of forests, 36 bamboo forests, 113 shrublands, 77 meadows, 37 marshlands, 55 steppes, 52 deserts, 17 alpine tundra and cushion-like and talus vegetation, making a total of 599 categories. There is no statistical data concerned with the types of freshwater and marine ecosystems .
All the above illustrate China's rich and unique biodiversity.
2. Threats to China's biodiversity
Although, on the one hand, China is one of the countries with the richest biodiversity, on the other, it is also one in which biodiversity has been most seriously destroyed and is still threatened. China has a huge population and a very long history of agriculture. Destroying forests and other types of vegetation to bring the land under cultivation, so as to produce more food and feed more people, has been the main way of agricultural development from the beginning. In addition, China's history is filled with wars and chaos, the flames of warfire also bringing considerable destruction to her biodiversity. Therefore, the legacy of biodiversity we inherited from our ancestors, though rich and varied is, in reality, broken and incomplete. Currently, though both government officers and the public, are becoming gradually aware of the importance of biodiversity conservation, various threats to it still grow. To summaries, in the terrestrial environment, the following are important:
(l) Forests broken into small, fragmented, areas
The area of present forest cover in China is only 133,700,000 ha, or only 4% of the world total. Forest cover is 13.92%, just 1/2 the world average. Not only is the area small, but it is also fragmented and scattered. Because of an upright, straight, trunk, high timber quality and high rate of timber production, coniferous trees became the first object of cutting. The three largest coniferous forest districts of China, i. e., Da Hinggan Ling, Changbai Shan Mountains and Southwestern Hengduan Shan Mountains, have had 70% of their natural forests cleared; various broad-leaved forests are even less. The most direct consequence of forest destruction is acute habitat change, and some of the original species adapted to a shady and humid forest interior, such as mosses, ferns, as well as various invertebrates are also threatened. Many higher plants and vertebrates, along with the destruction of original habitats, have become extinct.
(2) Rangelands overgrazed and severely degraded
China’ s rangelands mainly occur in the semi-humid, semi-arid and arid north and northwest (Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibetan Plateau). Within this vast area, there are 2,740,000 km2 of grasslands and, because of long term overgrazing, more than half of them have been degraded, and, of these,1/4 are degraded seriously. As well as overgrazing, continuous mowing year after year, overcorrecting medicinal herbs (such as Ephemera spp. and Glycyrrhiza spp.) and removing vegetation cover, are all factors responsible for rangeland degradation. The disappearance of some rare, sensitive, species may have resulted from this degradation.
(3) Overexploiting and utilizing animal and plant resources
Because most vertebrate meat is edible, their furs are wearable, and many have a high medicinal value, they are caught and killed by people. The disappearance of Panthera tigris lecoqi, Equus przewalskii, Saiga tatarica from China, and the endangerment of Panthera tigris amoyensis and others all result from such killing. Famous and valuable Chinese medicinal plants, such as Cistanche deserticola and Cynomorium songaricum, have decreased in wild habitats as the result of overcollecting. Species of the genera Cephalotaxus and Taxus, since it was discovered that new types of anticancer drugs can be extracted from them, immediately encountered extensive cutting and destruction, leading to a rapid decrease in this resource. Recently, government bans on hunting and collecting rare and endangered animals and plants have been enacted, but poaching and collecting are still serious problems.
(4) Atmospheric pollution threatens China's biodiversity
Lichens are sensitive to atmospheric SO2 and HF, and have disappeared from the suburbs of many cities and forests near sources of such pollution. Nevertheless, at the present time the largest influence comes from acid rain deposition. In centers of severe pollution, such as Southwest, South, Central and East China, the yearly average values of acid rain pH are mostly less than 5.0. Moreover, it has been discovered that even in a few North China cities, acid deposition also occurs. In polluted areas, lake water and soils are acidified, such that fishes and various invertebrates may be endangered.
(5) Invasive exotics
The weed Eupatorium adenophorum has now spread extensively in Southwestern China (in Yunnan Province alone, the invaded area is 24,700,000 ha). The exotic pest animal Hemiberlesia pitysophila invaded the coastal regions of Guangdong Province during the 1980s and expanded rapidly. Now, 400,000 ha of pine forests have been injured by it.
(6) Unfavourable effects on biodiversity from tourism, mining, wetland reclamation and other human activities
Recently, the tourist industry has developed rapidly in China, and its unfavorable influences on biodiversity have become more and more obvious. For example, because of trampling, the survival of the lichen, Phizoplaca huashanensis, an endemic species occurring on the rocks of Huashan Mountain, has been severely threatened. Tourism has also caused moss species to be severely endangered, e. g., Actinothuidium hookeri, Hylocomium splendens on the top of Emei Shan Mountain, Sichuan Province, and Andreaes sp. on Huang Shan Mountain, Anhui Province.
Vegetation destruction, soil and water pollution resulted from mining, lowering of ground water levels by over pumping, as well as noise along traffic lanes, have all adversely influenced biodiversity.
The threats to aquatic biodiversity mainly come from overfishing, and, especially if spawning, young and immature fishes are intensively fished, the depletion of many fish stocks will result. Two of the “four traditional fishing targets”, the Yellow croaker (Pseudosciaena corcea) and Small yellow croaker (P. polyactis) have sharply declined in the recent 20 years. The famous Hilsa herring (Macrura reevesii) in the Yangtze River is now very difficult to catch. The construction of reservoirs and dams, because of a lack of passing facilities, has prohibited the migration of some fishes, shrimps and crabs. For example, Jiangsu Province was formerly rich in river crabs, the yield in the early 1950s being about 6,000,000 kg/a. Currently, it is hard to find in the rivers and lakes of this province, because of the large-scale construction of hydraulic structures. Water pollution of many rivers and lakes has also dramatically decreased the output of aquatic products.
Blindly introducing exotic species, such as fish species from the Yangtze, Pearl and Erqis Pivers to Tarim Piver in Xinjiang, has resulted in the numbers of the original Tarim schizothoracin (Schizothorax biadulphi) being much reduced and the species in a state of endangerment.
3. Activities underway for biodiversity conservation
Since 1978, when China began to adopt its reform and open-door policy, the state has shifted its work focus to construction of the economy and defined environmental protection as a basic state policy. In the past 17 years, the state has formulated and carried out an effective series of general and specific policies and measures conducive to conservation and the sustainable utilization of biodiversity. In 1987, the State Council Environmental Committee promulgated the China National Conservation Strategy and, in 1992, the State Council called for documents to further strengthen the conservation and sustainable utilization of biodiversity, to gradually expand nature reserves and to establish a number of conservation and breeding centers for wild rare species and genetic resources. The state has timely proclaimed a variety of biodiversity conservation-related laws, regulations, rules and standards, especially the promulgation and enforcement of the “Environmental Protection Law”, “Wild Animal Protection Law” and “Regulations for Nature Reserves”. These have played an important role in China’ s biodiversity conservation programme. In the administrative government departments of Environmental protection, Forestry, Agriculture and Urban Construction, at all levels, biodiversity structures have been set up and, at the same time, adopted a number of natural conservation administration measures such as a licensing system, and an environment impact assessment system. The launching in 1994-1995 of the country-wide inspection of law enforcement for environmental protection and wild animal protection, has promoted biodiversity conservatism all over the country and enhanced collaboration between various departments. Additionally China’s Implementation Co-ordination Group for Fulfillment of the “Convention on Biological Diversity” was established in early 1993 as a state level organization consisting of various departments of the State Council.
By the end of 1995, the nation had established 799 nature reserves with an area accounting for 8% of the total land, 512 scenic resorts and 755 forest parks, 171 zoos or in-park zoos, 110 botanic gardens or arboreta, and a number of rare and endangered species artificial breeding bases. In addition, a crop germplasm resource conservation system, composed of long-and medium-term preservation banks and germplasm nurseries, have established a collection of 330,000 accessions.
In terms of eco-construction, the state has invested much money in carrying out a series of afforestation projects and mobilized people for tree planting. The acreage and timber store of forests are gradually increasing. Demonstration projects for the sustainable utilization of agriculture, forestry and eco-tourism resources have also been established.
In the field of scientific research, the nation has organized several large-scale investigations into biodiversity, published a great number of fauna and flora lists and produced the “Plant Red Data Book of China”(Volume One). It has also launched a series of research projects into conservation biology, species artificial breeding technology, monitoring and developed an information system about biodiversity, with a great number of findings.
Moreover, significant achievements have also been made in the fields of biodiverdity publicity and education, the training of personnel and international co-operation.
4. Economic evaluation of China’s biodiversity
The economic evaluation of biodiversity is a difficult problem the world faces in terms of ecological economics today, and a mammoth challenge to conventional economics. In line with the requirements of the UNEP “Guidelines for Biodiversity County Study”, this volume makes a preliminary, broad, evaluation and study of the economic value of biodiversity in China, based on actual conditions, available information and data and work that has already been done, by referring to the country studies of Sweden, Norway and Indonesia.
This report will divide the value of biodiversity into three types.
The first refers to its direct use value which includes: (1), the direct material value, whose indicator is the market value of the product or simply-processed bioresource products, encompassing those from forestry, agricultrue, animal husbandry, fisheries, medicine, and industry (using biological raw materials)and the bioresources consumed by the people, and which is estimated at 1,020 billion yuan net per annum, and(2),the non-material value which covers, for example, tourism, science and animal power but often lacks a direct set market value and uses a substitute cost instead of a direct calculation, and is estimated at 780 billion yuan. As a result, the total annual direct use value of biodiversity in China is 1,800 billion yuan.
The second is the indirect use value. Starting from the service function of the terrestrial ecosystem, the report addresses the ecological functions of China’s terrestrial ecosystem in terms of biomes production, O2 release, CO2 fixation and cycling of nutrient elements, degradation of major pollutants and conservation of water and soil, and then evaluates its economic value by using the market value method, substitute market method, protection cost method and rehabilitation cost method. The final calculation of the annual indirect use value (ecological function value) of China’s biodiversity in recent years is 37,310 billion yuan.
The third is termed the potential use value. This consists of the potential selection value and potential reservation value. For the former, the insurance payment willingness method is adopted to evaluate China’s major animal and plant communities and species in the form of expert-consultation insurance payments, and for which a mid-value of 90 billion yuan has been obtained; the latter uses the coefficient method, on the basis of the former, to estimate the potential reservation value of the species that have not yet been identified. This turns out to be 130 billion yuan. The former plus the latter can be calculated to be 220 billion yuan.
The report also calculates that the annual economic loss caused by environmental pollution and the undermining of ecology in China in recent years is 610 billion yuan.
5. The nation’s capacity building and funds required for implementing the convention
Although China has already made great strides towards conservation and the sustainable utilization of biodiversity, what has been done still falls far behind the requirements of the “Convention on Biological Diversity”. In order to efficiently protect and to sustainable use China’s biodiversity, and to ensure efficient fulfillment of the Convention, the report, systematically and comprehensively, identifies the scope and content of the capacity building China has to undertake and reinforce today and in the 15 years to come. It puts forward not only planned targets, tasks and measures for building such a national capacity in terms of laws and regulations, institutions, policy, manpower and resources, conservation and sustainable utilization, scientific research, information management, publicity, education and public participation and international co-operation, but also the requirements for construction of basic facilities in the fields of conservation and sustainable utilization, monitoring, information management, publicity and education. Before 2010, the total number of nature reserves will reach 1,200 with a total acreage of 10% of the state’s territory. Various components of China’s biodiversity will be thoroughly investigated, all volumes of China’s Flora, China’s Fauna and China’s Cryptograms will be completed, a state-wide biodiversity monitoring network will be established, data management will be strengthened and on-lined, and the nation’s capacity building for bio-safety will be strengthened.
Based on the nation’s capacity building requirements, tasks and measures already discussed, the report presents an estimation of the costs needed to implement them. Using the actual investment China has made in terms of conservation and sustainable biodiversity utilization since the 1980s as a baseline, the investment required to implement the obligations set out in the Convention over the next 15 years has been calculated. The major fields such an investment will go to include: formulation of a national strategy, plans, schemes and departmental programs; identification and monitoring; implementation of medium-and long-term in situ conservation programs; implementation of programmers for the sustainable utilization of biodiversity’s components; implementation of research, training and public education; collection, storage and exchange of information; and international technological and scientific co-operation. It is estimated that the total costs required to implement the convention in the next 15 years will be 141,200 million yuan, or, an annual average of 9,400 million yuan, i. e., about 1,100 million USD per annumW. By deducting the state’s routine input, the remaining 99,400 million yuan will be the extra cost required in the next 15 years, i. e., an average of 6,600 million yuan, or about 800 million USD per annum. This estimate is based on the level of input by China’s government on the early 1990s towards biodiversity conservation and sustainable utilization. Along with the development of the national economy, the state will increase its routine for biodiversity protection each year. But, taking inflation into account, the present estimate would still be an underestimate. To sum up, to fulfill the “Convention on Biological Diversity”, an amount of 400 million USD per annum will be required either from GEF or from other forms of foreign aid to cover the extra costs.
The report also calculates the investment required for the priority projects identified in the “China Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan”. For the next 5 years over 20 priority projects will require, approximately, a total input of 10,900 million yuuan, or about 1,300 million USD.
In addition, this report also analyses the anticipated benefits to be gained if the input into biodiversity conservation are realized, China will have created 123,400 million yuan in the form of ecological benefits and 55,600 million yuan in terms of economic benefits, which suggests that such benefits, especially the significant ecological benefits, far outweigh the investments.
* On the basis of 1 USD=8.3 yuan RMB in 1995.