China has 65.94 million ha of wetlands, 36.20 million ha of which are natural wetlands, ranking first in Asia and fourth in the world.
Widely distributed across China and widely varied, China's wetlands fall into 31 different types and 9 categories. China's range of wetland types is among the widest in the world. Since joining the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1992, the government has established 535 natural wetland reserves, many are low beaches by seas, lakes, rivers and forest-margin wetlands; of these 30, with a total area of 3.43 million ha, have been classified as Wetlands of International Importance, thus 40 percent of natural wetlands and 33 key animals under state protection are effectively preserved within the nature reserves. Thanks to effective protection the Lalu Wetland in Lhasa, Tibet, the world's highest, largest natural wetland within a city, has stopped shrinking, expanding from less than 6 sq km at the end of the millennium to 6.2 sq km today. Its vegetation coverage, most of it grassy marsh, is over 95 percent.
The National Plan for Wetland Protection Action begun in November 2000 aims to stop human-activity-related shrinking of natural wetlands by 2010 and to the recovery of receding or vanished wetlands by 2020. The National Program for Wetland Protection Engineering approved by the State Council in 2003 set these goals: by 2030, China will have 713 wetland reserves, including 80 Wetlands of International Importance, with over 90 percent of natural wetlands effectively protected; at the same time, 1.4 million ha of wetlands will be restored, and 53 national model zones of wetland protection and proper exploitation will be built, forming a relatively complete system of wetland protection, management and construction.