On June 17, the Paulson Institute and the Wetland Conservation Management Center of the State Forestry Administration of China launched the Coastal Wetland Conservation Network to share best practices and information and promote coordinated efforts to improve the effectiveness of wetlands conservation management in China.
The Coastal Wetland Conservation Network kicked off with a three-day workshop in Fuzhou on wetlands conservation and management, convening more than 150 participants, including wetland managers from China’s 11 coastal provinces, representatives from national nature reserves near seaside counties, provincial nature reserves and national wetland parks, experts from across China and abroad, as well as enterprise representatives.
At the close of the workshop, the Fuzhou government announced the “Fuzhou Declaration,” which stresses the need for government, non-government organizations and the private sector to increase their support for the protection of coastal wetlands. The declaration states that China’s coastal wetlands face four main challenges: reduction in area as a result of reclamation; pollution resulting from residential use and agricultural and industrial manufacturing; overfishing; and the spread of invasive species, which destroy natural ecosystems.
Wetlands provide crucial ecosystem services, such as water purification and flood control, and they are a natural buffer zone between ocean salt water and inland fresh water. They are considered to be the first line of defense against rising sea level resulting from climate change. Some 560 million people are living in the coastal provinces, whose economic production represents 58.6% of China’s national GDP. The area of coastal wetlands in China has declined by 22%, or 1.32 million hectares, over the past ten years, much higher than the average 8.82% loss rate of all wetlands types in China. The population of migratory birds on the East Asia-Australasia Flyway, which can serve as an indicator for the overall health of a wetland ecosystem, is declining at an annual rate of 5%-10%.
The Coastal Wetlands Conservation Network is supported by the Lao Niu Foundation and the Heren Philanthropic Foundation.
At the meeting, participants discussed the main objectives and direction for the development of the Network, which is believed to be an important platform for the conservation of coastal wetlands and migratory birds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The plan is to leverage the platform to take advantage of the strength of various institutions in different regions for information sharing and learning from each other’s successful experience as well as training of wetlands conservation staff. The network will also help strengthen international exchanges to work together on the conservation of coastal wetlands and better exploit the multiple benefits and values of wetlands.
Following the adoption of the Charter of Coastal Wetland Conservation Network, Chen Rongkai, Vice Chairman of the People’s Political Consultative Conference of Fujian Province, and Liu Dongsheng, Deputy Director of the State Forestry Administration, delivered speeches, expressing congratulations on the establishment of the Network and high expectations for its development.
The Fuzhou Declaration: Read by Yan Keshi, deputy mayor of Fuzhou, the declaration stresses the value and important functions of wetlands as an important guarantee for the sustainable economic development of China, especially the coastal areas. Currently, China’s coastal wetlands are severely damaged, and immediate actions are required for the purpose of conservation. Therefore, the Fuzhou Declaration proposes to: 1. enact laws and regulations on wetland conservation and protection as soon as possible; 2. revise the provisions on land and resources stating that “wetlands are classified as unused land,” (which means they can easily be used for development purposes); 3. include the development of wetlands into the cost accounting system of the national economy; 4. establish a long-acting mechanism for ecological compensation and funding; 5. incorporate wetland conservation into the Balance Sheet of Natural Resources as one of the key performance indicators for local governments; 6. advocate the importance of coastal wetlands and enhance public engagement and international cooperation.
Three experts from the State Forestry Administration and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges provided in-depth analysis and interpretation of national policies on wetland conservation, wetland delineation and the development of China’s “eco-civilization”. They emphasized the important role of wetlands in the development of eco-civilization as well as the considerations and expectations before and after the release of policies, so that participants could have a new awareness and understanding of wetland conservation through the prism of national policies.
Wetland conservation and management training. Seven scholars from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing Normal University, the Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ocean University of China, Stanford University and other research institutions presented their latest research results on various topics, such as the change of China’s coastline in the past 70 years, important wetlands and conservation gap analysis, the management of important bird habitats, practice and discussion of ecological compensation and impact of climate change on coastal areas.
They pointed out that:
- Reclamation projects in recent decades have resulted in significant loss of natural shoreline, and now only about 32% of the natural coastline remains intact with seriously damaged ecological security.
- The area of wetlands as habitats for migratory birds has shrunk significantly and there is a big gap in conservation, as 78.26% of the surveyed area has yet to establish any form of protected area.
- For the most important habitats at Yalu Jiang Estuary, Liaohe Estuary, Tianjin Beidagang, Hebei Luannan, Shandong Yellow River Estuary and Jiangsu Dongtai Xiaoyangkou, there is no conservation agency yet despite overdevelopment, leading to concerns about conservation status.
- The rising sea level caused by climate change highlights the vital importance of coastal wetlands: without the protection provided by coastal wetlands, 11% of the coastline would be considered vulnerable areas; with such protection, the percentage falls to 9.1%.
Sharing of international experience: A project manager from WWF-Hong Kong presented details on the methods, measures and means adopted to carry out environmental education in Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve. Project members from the United States and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Network made presentations on the experience and lessons in salt marsh wetland restoration, conservation of estuarine wetlands, public engagement and policy promotion, as well as projects undertaken by the Flyway Network.
Exchange of Spartina control experience: At the workshop, managers from Shanghai Chongming Dongtan and Fujian Minjiang Estuary national nature reserves and experts from the United States presented their experience of failure and success in the control and eradication of Spartina, an invasive grass species that destroys coastal ecosystems. The participants were particularly interested in the experience of the United States, and had in-depth interactions on details of processing time, approach, frequency, environmental impact and cost and effectiveness during the question and answer session.
It was decided that the Network’s annual meeting will be hosted by Guangdong province next year.