A few days before the official opening of COP 15 negotiations, where China as the host country is expected to play a key role, the State Information Office released a White Paper outlining on 26 pages China’s achievements and current policy on biodiversity. In the following excerpt the most important messages and information are summarized:
- In-situ protection: According to the white paper China has established more than10,000 protected areas which account for 18 percent of China’s land area, including 10 national parks covering a land area of 220,000 km² (about two thirds of the area of Germany). Measures include protection of natural ecosystems, biological resources and endangered species. There are remarkable achievements in protecting endangered species. The population of the wild panda, the iconic animal for biodiversity protection, has grown from 1,114 to 1,864 in the past 40 years and thus the panda could be downgraded from the IUCN list of “endangered species” to “vulnerable” species. Another success story is the crested ibis, its population grew from only seven to over 5,000 birds. The population of Asian elephants in the wild grew from 180 to 300 animals in recent years.
- Ex-situ protection: In addition, China is developing its ex-situ conservation system including botanical gardens, wildlife rehabilitation and breeding centers, germplasm resource centers and gene banks. At present there are about 200 botanical gardens all over the country. This includes 22 integrated genetic resource banks of multiple tree species and 13 gene banks for single tree species as well as 294 national centers for forest superior tree varieties.
- Protection of genetic resources: China has also rolled out plans for strategic biological resources to improve bio-resource collection and to create platforms for germplasm resource innovation as well as libraries for derivatives of genetic resources. By the end of 2020, China had put in place a national crop genetics protection system with national long-term banks and 43 germplasm fields. It built 199 state-level livestock and poultry germplasm resource preservation fields and prepares state-level sites for conservation of germplasm of over 90 percent of breeds under the National Catalogue of Livestock and Poultry Genetic Resources. There are over 520,000 copies of crop germplasm resources and 960,000 copies of livestock and poultry genetic resources in long-term storage. In addition, 99 state-level germplasm resource banks for trees and two state-level germplasm resource sub-centers for trees and grass in Xinjiang and Shandong have been established, 31 germplasm preservation fields and two germplasm resource centers for medicinal plants have been built. By end of 2020, the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species in Southwest China, which is coordinated by the Kunming Institute of Botany had preserved 85,000 wild plant seeds of 10,601 species.
- Biosecurity Governance: Apart from the Biosecurity Law that came into force in 2021 China has issued a number of regulations concerning the prevention of invasion of invasive alien species and regulations for the administration of genetically modified organisms (GMO).
- Surveys on biogenetic resources: At present China organizes several surveys on biogenetic resources including the fourth national survey on Traditional Chinese Medicine, the third national survey and collection on germplasm resources (2021-23), the third national survey on livestock and poultry resources and the first national survey on forest and grass germplasm resources (launched in 2019). In the past decade Chinese researchers identified about 200 new plant varieties per year.
- Eco-environmental conservation and restoration projects: Efforts focus on sandstorm and desertification control (the Three-North Shelterbelt Afforestation Program and the protection of key eco-system zones such as the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yellow River Eco-Zone, Yangzi River Eco-zone and the coastal shelterbelt (1200 km of coastline and 23,000 ha of coastal wetlands).
- Biodiversity governance: The China National Committee for Biodiversity Conservation (CNCBC) has been established to coordinate the conservation actions and is composed of 23 departments under the state council. The China National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2011-2030) provides guidance for policy and legal framework. Regulations that had been passed recently include the Decision to Comprehensively Prohibit the Illegal Trade of Wild Animals and Eliminate the Bad Habits of Wild Animal Consumption. Based on nationwide biodiversity surveys China has released the China Red Data Book of Plants, the China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals, the China Red Species List and the China’s Red List of Biodiversity.
- Monitoring and observation networks: Since 1988 China has set up the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network (CERN) with 44 research station in different ecological zones all over the country. In 2011 the China Biodiversity Observation Network (BON) has been established with 380 observation plots for birds, 159 for amphibians, 70 for mammals and 140 for butterflies.
The White paper further elaborates on activities of encouraging public participation such as special public awareness campaigns and the participation in the Global Partnership for Business and Biodiversity. The final chapter is devoted to China’s contribution the Global Cooperation on Biodiversity protection, including bilateral cooperation mechanisms on biodiversity with Germany and some other countries.