Advancing sustainable growth in the United States and China

Coastal Wetlands Blueprint Project

The Paulson Institute worked with the Chinese government on  the country’s first comprehensive national blueprint and policy recommendations for the conservation and management of China’s endangered coastal wetlands.  The blueprint results were announced in Beijing on October 19, 2015. Training and policy advocacy are ongoing.

Blueprint of Coastal Wetland Conservation and Management in China

Key Findings

bpt 1 The coastal wetlands are the most threatened but least protected ecosystems in China. Over the past 50 years, 53% of temperate coastal ecosystems, 73% of mangroves and 80% of coral reefs have been lost mostly due to economic development. Only 24% of coastal wetlands have been legally designated as protected areas, much lower than the mean wetland protection rate of 43.5% across China. Coastal wetlands in China’s most economically developed provinces/municipalities—such as Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Tianjin, and Shandong—are hot targets for economic development projects, thus posing a severe short-term challenge to the protection of existing habitats and a longer-term threat to local populations.
bpt 2 The primary driver for the reduced area of coastal wetlands in China is large-scale, rapid land reclamation. If China fulfills its current 2020 economic development plans in the coastal regions, more natural coastal wetlands will be reclaimed, which will result in crossing the “red line” of 800 million mu (53.3 million ha) of wetlands— defined by the government in 2015 as the minimum required to maintain China’s basic ecological security. This basic ecological security serves several purposes, such as providing fishery products, clean water, and flood control.
bpt 3 Reclamation of China’s coastal wetlands, which has led to the loss of crucial habitats for migratory water birds, is one of the primary drivers of a severe drop in bird populations, threatening the survival of many species along the East Asia-Australasia Flyway. Of the 27 species of water birds that are critically endangered in the world, 24 species rely on China’s shrinking coastal wetlands as part of their biannual migration.
bpt 4 No specific law regulates the use of wetlands in China. What’s more, wetlands are categorized as “unused” land, which means that they often become targets of encroachment by local governments to fulfill agricultural land protection quotas and balance land used for urban and industrial expansion elsewhere. Provincial-level regulations on wetland conservation have not yet been promulgated in Tianjin, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Fujian, and Hainan.
bpt 5 Multiple government agencies have responsibility for wetlands management, and there are no well-coordinated mechanisms among these agencies to resolve conflicting mandates or plans or to prioritize between conservation and economic development needs.
best practices Case studies on the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound Bay, and Tijuana Estuary suggest that best practices in the United States can provide useful lessons for coastal wetlands conservation in China. These best practices include: rigid legislation on coastal wetland conservation; combining the protection of wetlands and water birds; establishing wetland mitigation banks; granting conservation easements; conducting regular monitoring and scientific research; restoring natural wetlands to mitigate against climate change; effective coordination between stakeholders; adaptive habitat management targeting different species.

Key Recommendations

bpt 7 Strengthen wetland legislation at the national level; revise the provisions of existing laws and regulations on coastal wetland conservation; enhance law enforcement and accountability; and develop an integrated management system on coastal wetlands.
expand Build new coastal wetland protected areas and expand the scope of some existing protected areas to fill the gaps in coastal wetland conservation.
integrate Incorporate coastal wetland conservation into the overall planning of land use and economic development; implement pilot projects on integrated planning at coastal municipal/county levels; reassess and suspend the implementation of large wetlands conversion and sea reclamation projects in conservation priority areas.
require accountability Establish a sound environmental performance appraisal and accountability system, including responsibility and punishment for officials whose behavior leads to the destruction of wetlands; conduct pilot projects on long-term wetland conservation financing mechanisms; implement effective coastal wetland conservation and restoration model projects.
bpt 11 Carry out regular monitoring and assessment of coastal wetland ecosystems to provide a strong scientific foundation for effective conservation and restoration; develop effective technical models that fit local contexts and apply best international practices.
bpt 12 Promote the recently established Coastal Wetland Conservation Network to amplify its voice; organize activities to raise public awareness and involve the general public and social forces, and participate in international cooperation and exchange on conservation of coastal wetlands and migratory water birds.

Purpose

The ultimate goal of the Coastal Wetlands Blueprint Project—a partnership with the Office of Wetlands Conservation and Management under the State Forestry Administration and the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences—is to provide the scientific foundation and policy recommendations for strengthening conservation and management of endangered coastal wetlands. Over 18 months, dozens of Chinese scientists and several international experts conducted field surveys, scientific analysis, and policy consultation, culminating in detailed technical reports, comprehensive policy recommendations, and public education materials. Specifically the blueprint focused on the following goals:

  • Assessment of the current status of coastal wetland conservation in China
  • Planning and mapping of coastal wetland biodiversity conservation
  • Conservation for key coastal wetland habitats for migratory waterbirds along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway
  • Identification of best practices on coastal wetland conservation and management
  • Strategy and action plan for coastal wetland conservation

Blueprint Report Findings and Recommendations

July 1992

July 1992

China officially joins the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty that promotes the conservation of wetlands and their resources, which established the country’s recognition of increasing wetland importance.

October 2000

October 2000

The State Forestry Administration (SFA), in partnership with 16 other government institutions and ministries, releases the National Wetland Conservation Action Plan for China, a set of guidelines for the conservation and responsible use of wetlands.

October 2004

October 2004

China’s State Council approves the National Wetland Conservation Program (2004-2030), which aims to establish 713 wetland reserves, including 80 wetland sites of international importance.

August 2005

August 2005

The SFA establishes the Convention on Wetlands Management Office, responsible for ensuring fulfillment of the Ramsar Convention and its wetland projects.

September 2010

September 2010

China’s State Council approves the China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030), devised by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, in an effort to establish monitoring systems to help prioritize wetland conservation and restoration.

August 2011

August 2011

The SFA issues the Twelfth Five-Year Plan for National Forestry Development (2011-2015) , setting targets for wetland conservation at regional and national levels.

March 2012

March 2012

The Ministry of Land and Resources issues the National Land Consolidation Plan (2011-2015), which emphasizes the importance of environmental integrity and wetland conservation in land consolidation and prevents the exploitation of wetlands for agricultural purposes.

August 2012

August 2012

The State Council approves the 12th Five-Year Implementation Plan of the NWCP (2011-2015), aiming to expand the scope of wetland protection at both the provincial and national levels. Prepared in conjunction with the SFA and nine other central sectors, this plan would allow for the Central Government and sub-national governments at different levels to invest as much as 12.987 billion RMB for wetland restoration and conservation.

March 2013

March 2013

The SFA adopts national policies on wetland protection, titled the Management Rules on Wetland Protection, as a first step towards developing national wetland legislation that would supersede local legislation.

May 2013

May 2013

Management Rules on Wetland Protection enters into force.

December 2013

December 2013

China’s State Council promulgates the Master Plan for Protecting the Environment and Ecosystems of Lakes with Good Water Quality (2013-2020), aiming to manage water pollution in key watersheds and across China’s five lake districts.

February 2014

February 2014

In partnership with The Office of Wetlands Conservation and Management under the State Forestry Administration and the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Paulson Institute announces the launch of its Coastal Wetland Blueprint Project. The Blueprint Project aims to produce a comprehensive set of policy recommendations in order to lay a solid foundation for developing a well-informed national strategy for coastal wetland conservation.

March 2014

March 2014

China’s State Council approves the National Ecological Protection and Development Plan (2011-2020), a joint agreement formulated by twelve state sectors, including the National Reform and Development Commission. The Plan aims to serve as a framework for mainstreaming wetland conservation through conservation solutions that tackle exploitation issues.

October 2015

October 2015

The Paulson Institute’s Coastal Wetland Blueprint Project is completed after 18 months.