The Yellow River Basin is a critical eco-region and an important economic zone in China. With only two percent of China’s river runoff, it provides water for 12 percent of the country’s population and 15 percent of its arable land. In 2019, the Chinese government elevated ecosystem conservation and high-quality development of the Yellow River Basin as a national strategy and defined the strategic requirement of “managing the Yellow River with emphasis on protection and treatment.” Wetland conservation and restoration is a key part of this national strategy and is a vital foundation for maintaining biodiversity and supporting high-quality development in the Yellow River Basin.
There are various types of wetlands along the Yellow River, with a total area of 3.93 million hectares, accounting for about six percent of the country’s wetland area. These wetlands mainly include marshes, riverine wetlands, lakes, coastal wetlands, and artificial wetlands, located in the headwaters, middle reaches, and estuarine delta of the Yellow River. They provide significant ecosystem services such as water conservation, hydrological regulation, climate regulation, water purification, carbon sequestration, and support biodiversity and have an important position in China’s national ecosystem security.
However, wetland ecosystems in the Yellow River Basin are fragile. Climate change and traditional approaches to economic development have taken a toll on the health of these ecosystems, resulting in the reduction in the total area of wetlands and the continuous degradation of ecosystem structure and functions. In addition, wetland conservation and water resource management have long been in conflict, resulting in wetland management being separated from integrated river basin management. Therefore, it is crucial to effectively include wetland conservation in the integrated river basin management for high-quality development to take place in the Yellow River Basin.
To help address these issues, in late 2021, the Paulson Institute, Lao Niu Foundation, and the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences jointly launched the “Project on Wetland Conservation Strategy and Priority Actions in the Yellow River Basin.”