China's first nature reserve was the Dinghu Mountain Nature Reserve in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province established in 1956. By the end of 2005, some 2,349 nature reserves of various kinds have been set up throughout the country, covering a total area of 149.95 million ha, and accounting for 15 percent of the total land territory. Protected through these nature reserves are 88 percent of China's land eco-system types, 87 percent of its wildlife populations, 65 percent of its higher plant communities, nearly 20 percent of its natural forests, 50 percent of its marshland and wetland, the main habitats of more than 300 precious and endangered wild animal species, and major distribution areas for over 130 precious tree varieties.
The Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve established in August 2000 has the greatest concentration of biodiversity of all China's nature reserves. Covering an area of 316,000 sq km and with an average elevation of 4,000 meters, it is also the largest and highest. It is located in the central area of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, at the source of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers. State-level investment of 220 million yuan has been committed to the Sanjiangyuan protection project, which started in 2003. Guangdong Province has 256 nature reserves, the most in China, covering a combined area of 3.3 million ha. Wolong and Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan, Changbaishan in Jilin, Dinghushan in Guangdong and Baishuijiang in Gansu, are among the 27 nature reserves that have been designated by UNESCO as "World Biosphere Reserves."