The Paulson Institute co-hosted the second annual meeting of the China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network on June 22 in Shenzhen, convening some 200 experts to discuss climate change and coastal wetlands. Jointly organized with the Wetland Conservation Management Center of the State Forestry Administration of China and the Forestry Department of Guangdong Province, the event brought together some 200 wetland managers from China’s 11 coastal provinces, representatives from national nature reserves near coastal counties, provincial nature reserves and national wetland parks, experts from across China and abroad, and NGOs.
The meeting focused on adaptive management of coastal wetlands and enhanced carbon sequestration in coastal wetlands to mitigate climate change. The conference aimed to raise awareness of Chinese authorities at various levels on coastal wetlands conservation and management, and of practitioners on the impact of climate change and the role of coastal wetlands in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Participants also shared best practices on adaptive management in the context of climate change.
China’s coastal wetlands are facing many threats, such as reclamation and occupation by infrastructural development, pollution, over-fishing and over-collection, and invasive alien species. The country’s first comprehensive Blueprint for Coastal Wetland Conservation and Management, published by the Paulson Institute and the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, identified 180 priority conservation sites, including 11 extremely important but as-yet unprotected habitats for migratory birds. The coastal wetlands not only support biodiversity conservation along the globally important East Asian-Australasian Flyway, but also serve as life-supporting systems and ecological safety barriers for some of the most populous and economically developed areas in China.
The second National Wetland Resources Inventory found that the coastal wetland area in China has declined by 1.36 million hectares during the period from 2003 to 2013, representing the highest loss rate in various types of wetland across the country. Over the past 50 years, the coastal wetlands have been reduced by 50% due to reclamation. Meanwhile, a total of 246,900 hectares have been approved for reclamation projects by 2020. According to the blueprint report, if such trends cannot be contained, the “red line” of 800 million mu, the government’s defined minimum wetlands area required to maintain necessary eco-services, will be crossed by 2018.
At the meeting, Chen Fengxue, Vice Administrator of the State Forestry Administration, emphasized that in the broad context of global climate change, the government is promoting the development of an “ecological civilization” and wetland protection at the regional level. He called for the further development of the coastal wetland protection network, strengthened cooperation and responsibility between the network members, and improved effectiveness and connectivity of regional wetland protection management.
In recent years, the Chinese government has developed and implemented a number of programs related to wetland conservation, such as the China National Wetland Conservation Program (2002-2030) as well as more concrete plans for implementation in the 11th and 12th Five-Year Plans. So far, the government has established a total of 18 Ramsar sites, more than 80 wetland nature reserves, and over 160 national wetland parks in coastal provinces, covering 1.39 million hectares, or 24.07 percent of China’s total coastal wetland area. An initial coastal wetland conservation and management system has been developed, laying a foundation for promoting ecological security in coastal areas.
“We initiated the China Coastal Wetlands Conservation Network to better advance the protection and management of coastal wetlands in China,” said Jerry Yu, chief representative of the Paulson Institute’s Beijing Representative Office, which is working closely with the State Forestry Administration on wetlands conservation. “With this platform, we can better assess the current status and risks of China’s coastal wetlands, address issues relating to their effective protection and management, and share and learn from each other knowledge and best practices related to coastal wetland protection and management. We hope this meeting can serve as a platform for different stakeholders to share knowledge and experiences, and provide new opportunities for them to work closely with each other.”
The China Coastal Wetlands Conservation Network was launched by the Paulson Institute and the Wetland Conservation Management Center of the State Forestry Administration of China, and formally established in Fuzhou, in Fujian Province, in June 2015. With its members coming from China’s coastal 11 provinces, the network is designed to conduct extensive exchange and cooperation between members, build a platform for exchange and cooperation, share best practices and information, and promote coordinated efforts to improve the effectiveness of wetlands conservation management in China. The China Coastal Wetlands Conservation Network is supported by the Lao Niu Foundation and the Heren Philanthropic Foundation.