SCIO press conference on 'Biodiversity Conservation in China' white paper

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China Daily:

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration is one of the main departments responsible for conserving biodiversity. What efforts have you made to this end? And what progress has been made? Thank you.

Li Chunliang:

Thank you for your questions. The release of the white paper reflects the efforts and achievements China has made in biodiversity conservation over the years. The forestry and grassland sector is one of the main departments responsible for biodiversity conservation. I will brief you on the work we have done in protecting ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic resource diversity.

First, regarding the protection of ecosystem diversity, we have intensified efforts in improving the ecosystems of forests, grasslands, wetlands and deserts. As for forest ecosystems, we have focused on conservation and restoration and launched many projects including large-scale afforestation, protection of natural forests and turning marginal farmland into forests. As a result, the natural forest reserve has registered a significant increase, with 78% of total forest carbon storage coming from natural forests. China's forest coverage and forest reserve have both maintained growth for the last 30 years, and the forest ecosystem has a greater capacity to serve development.

As for grassland ecosystems, we have made solid progress in the conservation and restoration of grasslands by turning grazing lands to grasslands and subsidizing the restoration of grassland eco-environments. In 2020, the vegetation coverage of China's grasslands stood at more than 56%, and the grass continued to improve. 

As for wetland ecosystems, during the 13th Five-year Plan period, we have implemented 53 wetland conservation and restoration programs as well as more than 2,000 programs including those that compensate for economic disadvantages associated with reducing damage to wetland eco-environments, and those that provide allowances for turning farmlands into wetlands, with 201 new national wetland parks and an increase of wetlands by 3.04 million mu (202,667 hectares). A total of 7.01 million mu of degraded wetlands have been restored, and more than 50% of wetlands have been protected. The wetland ecosystem continues to improve, with water quality improvements and the number of migratory bird populations picking up significantly.

As for desert ecosystems, we have implemented key projects with continual efforts to develop the Three-North (i.e., Northeast China, North China and Northwest China) Shelterbelt Forest Program for 43 years, facilitating sandstorm source control in Beijing and Tianjin for 21 years, and controlling stony desertification for 15 years. Moreover, we have mapped out protected regions for desertification lands and developed more national desert (stony desert) parks. China has been consolidating progress step by step to curb the global major ecological issue of desertification. Studies have shown that China's sandy lands have changed from an annual average expansion of 3,436 square kilometers at the end of the last century to a current annual average decrease of 1,980 square kilometers, creating a human miracle of turning desert into oasis and transforming wastelands into forests, all while advancing China's solutions for global ecological governance.

Second, regarding species diversity conservation, we have initialed since 2001 projects for wild animal and plant conservation and constructed nature reserves , and put 15 rare and endangered species of wild animals and plants including giant pandas, Manchurian tigers, golden monkeys, red ibises and cycads under conservation. Rescue measures have been adopted to establish nearly 10,000 nature reserves nationwide, accounting for roughly 18% of China's lands. A total of 90% of land ecosystems, 65% of higher plant communities, and 71% of wildlife species under state conservation have been protected. Conservation of flagship species has shown umbrella effects, benefiting other species in the same habitat. The number of species under state conservation continued to increase. China has rebuilt the wild population of the elk, Przewalski's horse and crested ibis, once nowhere to be found in the wild, winning global attention.

Third, regarding the preservation of genetic resources diversity, we have made the following efforts to promote the genetic resource preservation of wild plants. We have begun constructing a botanical garden system. A total of 162 botanical gardens have been established to collect and preserve more than 20,000 wild plants. China has completed basic preservation of germplasm resources of rare and wild plants including cycad, palm, and key orchidaceae and magnoliaceae plants native to the country. We have launched the construction of germplasm resources for trees. China has established 161 state-level germplasm resource in-situ and ex-situ banks for trees, and two state-level germplasm resource sub-centers for trees and grass in Xinjiang and Shandong, preserving more than 100,000 copies of germplasm resources for trees. We have launched the construction of germplasm resource centers for grass. China has set up one germplasm center for grass and 11 state-level germplasm resource gardens for grass, preserving more than 60,000 germplasm resources of grass, mainly herbage.

Regarding wildlife genetic resource preservation, we have set up and improved wildlife rescue and breeding centers and germplasm genetic banks, supported the establishment of a national center for genetic conservation of endangered wildlife, a feline research center, and an Asian elephant conservation and research center, collecting and preserving a total of 220,000 genome-wide DNA samples of more than 800 species of China's rare and endangered wildlife.

Over the years, we have made remarkable progress in preserving forest and grass biodiversity. We will continue to work on natural ecosystem conservation, endangered species rescue and breeding, and genetic resource collection and preservation, making more contributions to biodiversity conservation at home and abroad. Thank you.

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