Sichuan Forest Biodiversity Project in China

Date: 2011/02/07

 

Zoos and Aquariums continue committing to Biodiversity Conservation

 

Gland, Switzerland (07 February 2011): After the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the period from 2011 to 2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, the world community of zoos and aquariums represented by WAZA -  the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, presents a WAZA conservation project which is implemented by Chester Zoo and Liverpool John Moores University.

 

"WAZA as the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which holds a working agreement with the Convention will fully support the conservation of biodiversity and related educational and communication activities", says Markus Gusset, PhD, Conservation Officer & International Studbook Coordinator of WAZA

 

Enhance networks of protected areas in China and engage local people in their sustainable management

 In 1998 the devastating floods along the Yangtze River led to the introduction of the National Forest Protection Programme. This moratorium outlined changes to logging practice and land management policy within the upper Yangtze basin. Consequently these changes presented conservationists with a unique opportunity to encourage protection for the important broadleaf forest habitat and its endemic animals and plants within southern Sichuan Province. The conservation significance of this forest is highlighted by its inclusion within the Mountains of South-west China Biodiversity Hotspot (Conservation International) and the Chinese Subtropical Forest Endemic Bird Area (Birdlife International).

 

However, prior to 1998 this ecosystem was largely ignored, with the majority of primary forest being divided into forest farms destined for commercial logging. These broadleaf forests are home to the endangered Sichuan hill-partridge (Arborophila rufipectus), which is confined to forest in central southern Sichuan and has been the subject of detailed research since 1995. Through this research it became clear that the area contained a high diversity of birds and was important for a number of other endemic species. The area is also home to the southernmost surviving population of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) as well as several other significant threatened mammals, amphibians and plants. Surviving populations of these were seriously threatened with doubts to their long-term survival. Thus, what began as a Liverpool John Moores University research project, focusing on the endangered Sichuan hill-partridge, has evolved into a multi-faceted conservation project supported and co-managed by Chester Zoo. In partnership with the Sichuan Forest Department, the Sichuan Forest Biodiversity Project is developing a network of protected forest areas within the Liang Shan region, which engages local people in their sustainable management and cultivation.

 

"We strive to establish an effective ecological network, improve the evidence base for conservation, support sustainable communities and raise public awareness", says Roger Wilkinson, PhD, Head of Field Conservation & Research at Chester Zoo.

 

At present there are eleven nature reserves (four supported by the project) across the Liang Shan and several of these share boundaries. However, these areas remain under threat from human pressures. One major problem is the extensive use of wood for fuel which, together with the increasing demand on land for grazing and agriculture, has led to widespread clearance and degradation in many areas. A high demand for forest products such as bamboo shoots and medicinal herbs has attracted people from outside the region and causes massive disturbance and over-exploitation at certain times of the year. Economic developments in the wider region have increased demand for electricity and natural resources such as coal and minerals, consequently causing the encroachment of hydroelectric schemes, mining activities and polluting industries. More recently the increase in wealth and income of people in many parts of China has led to a rise in the demand for tourism and this brings added pressures to beautiful areas like the Liang Shan.

 

The overarching aims of the project are to enhance the network of protected areas for forest biodiversity in the Liang Shan region of southern Sichuan, especially through building capacity of the local reserve staff, and to engage local people in their sustainable management and development.

 

The full text is available on the WAZA website at: http://www.waza.org/en/site/conservation/waza-conservation-projects/overview/sichuan-forest-biodiversity-project

 

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  • Notes to Editors

    The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is a global organisation that harmonises the principles, policies, practices and strategy of over 1,300 leading zoos and aquariums.  WAZA is the unifying representative of the global zoo and aquarium community and works in partnership with IUCN, national governments and non-governmental organisations to ensure high standards of animal welfare and to achieve conservation in zoos and aquariums (ex situ) and in nature (in situ).

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