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Policies needed to protect biodiversity: scientists
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Important eco-resources, such as peatlands, have been on decline, experts warned.

Peatlands, the most space-effective carbon stocks, have deteriorated, despite the government's efforts to increase wetlands in the Dongting Lake and Poyang Lake areas.

Covering only 3 percent of the world's land area, or 4 million sq km, peatlands hold 550 billion tons of carbon, which is equivalent to 75 percent of all atmospheric carbon, said Faizal Parish, director of the Global Environment Center and head of Wetlands International-Asia Pacific.

The degradation of wetlands led to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Species that are vulnerable to climate change could thus face extinction.

 "People previously were not aware of the connection between biodiversity and our daily life," said John MacKinnon, an official with the EU-China Biodiversity Program.

A study by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) showed that 20 percent to 30 percent of species would be at high risk of extinction if the temperature increased by 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius.

 The average world temperature in the past century has increased by 0.56 to 0.92 degrees Celsius, and that of China has risen by 0.5 to 0.8 degrees in the same period, said Lin Erda, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

 If the trend continues, China's crop productivity would decrease by 5 percent to 10 percent by 2030, and by the second half of this century, the yield productivity of rice, maize and wheat might fall 37 percent, he said.

Last year, the central government appropriated 23.5 billion yuan (US$3.26 billion) for energy-efficient projects. The total investment in renewable energy development exceeded 140 billion yuan in 2007, said Su Wei, director general of the Office of National Leading Group on Climate Change.

The government has also pledged to cut the energy consumption used to generate per unit of GDP by 20 percent and major pollutants emissions by 10 percent between 2006 and 2010 in an effort to battle global warming.

China is among the countries with the highest level of biodiversity. It has 17,300 species of plants, 667 native vertebrates and 599 kinds of ecosystems, including forests, grasslands and deserts. The number of bird species, 1,244, is also the highest in the world.

 However, according to the new China Species Red List, 34.74 percent of the country's invertebrates were endangered, as were 35.92 percent of its vertebrates, 69.91 percent of gymnosperm species and 86.63 percent of angiosperm species. These numbers greatly exceeded earlier estimates of 2 percent to 30 percent.

Wu Xiaoqing, deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration, has called for stronger scientific and technological support and international cooperation to address climate change.

 Stefan Agne, first secretary of Development and Cooperation of the delegation of the European Commission, also said China should incorporate diversity protection into policy making and combine economic development with environmental protection.

 He also said that China should raise people's awareness of environmental protection and take concrete steps to address the issue. "A lot has been done, but more needs to be done," he said.

 (Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2008)

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