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Home >> Tibet Travel Guide >> Tibet Nature Reserves

Tibet Nature Reserves

Tibet Nature reserves The Tibet Autonomous Region is 1.22 million square km in area, with an average altitude of well over 4,000 meters. It is not only the important "source of rivers" and "ecological source" for most areas of China and even Asia, but is also an important region for biodiversity in the world. Entering the 21st century, the local government promotes the work of protecting the ecological environment. It has established a database for establishing the ecological status quo, divided the Tibetan ecological functional region into seven first class areas, 17 second-class sub-regions and 76 third-class regions, and worked out the ¡®Plan for the State Ecology Safety Barrier Protection and Construction on the Tibetan Plateau'. It also constructed the Mt. Namjagbarwa Nature Reserve, Lhalu Wetland Nature Reserve and other nature reserves and commenced the project of protecting natural forests in the three counties on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, with 200,000 hectares of farmland reforested and 10,000 hectares identified for water and soil conservation. Tibet has done a good job in protecting the environment while achieving fast economic and social growth.

According to statistics, in 2005, the water quality of the main rivers and lakes in Tibet remained in sound condition, up to quality criteria specified in the relevant water areas by the State. The total volume of waste gas emission dropped 0.82 percent from the same period of 2004 in Tibet. Lhasa City saw 119 days of excellent air quality, 239 days of good air quality and no day where the worst measure of pollution prevailed; hence, 98.1 percent of the year saw good air quality. There has never been any acid rain in Lhasa. With the environment still remaining in a sound state, Tibet is one of the world's best areas in the environmental quality.

In 2005, there were 81 environmental protection organs at various levels with some 380 full-time or part-time employees.

Between 2006 and 2010, Tibet will continue to take all kinds of policies and measures such as providing home solar ovens for farmers and herders, construction of a steppe enclosure net, protection of basic farmland, restoring cultivated land to forests and animal breeding grounds to pastures and protection of natural forest, and lay emphasis on the implementation of four ecological projects including the buildup of environmental protection capability, the construction of the State ecological safety barrier on the Tibet Plateau, pollution prevention and control project and the project to boost healthy farmland and pastureland. The State ecological safety barrier construction project on the Tibet Plateau with investment of 3.87 billion Yuan will mainly include the establishment of nature reserve zones and key eco-system protection zones, natural forests and grassland protection, forest recovery and resettlement of nomadic herders, construction of bases for forest tree seedlings, forest fireproofing, prevention of plant diseases and insect infestation, desertification control and water and soil conservation. To construct the barrier will effectively hold back the trend of ecological and environmental degradation in the rivers and lakes, promote the recovery of the basic eco-system structure and functions, maintaining important eco-functions such as conservation of headwaters areas, biodiversity protection and water and soil conservation. It will preserve and improve the environmental quality of the regional ecology, increase the ability of the regional economy to sustainable development and guarantee regional ecological safety. Tibet also will rigorously promote the technologies of clean production and green energy, working to mainly solve the environmental problems that are attracting wide public attention and which affect the vital interests of the masses. It will combine the development strategy of urbanization in Tibet to intensify the comprehensive governance of urban environment and solve the problems such as drinking water safety, household garbage disposal, household sewage disposal and noise, thus pushing forward the construction of resource-saving and an environmentally-friendly society.

Nature Reserves

Tibet Nature reserves By the end of 2005, there were altogether 38 nature reserves of different types in the Tibet Autonomous Region, covering a total area of 408,300 sq. km or 34.03 percent of the total land area of the region (thus, ranking first throughout the country); they include nine State class ones, six regional ones and 23 local class ones. The State-class Changtang Nature Reserve, with an area of 29.80 million hectares, is the largest; it was set up to protect wild animals and the grassland ecological system. The smallest is the TAR-class Nyingchi Bagyi Giant Cypress Nature Reserve; covering an area of only eight hectares. The Changtang, Qomolangma and Medog State-class nature reserves were set up to protect the local ecological system and rare animals and plants. In addition, there are nature reserves set up to protect rare animals such as red deer, Yunnan golden monkey, black-necked crane and red-spotted antelopes; there are also nature reserves set up to provide plants such as giant cypress and high-yield dragon spruce, to protect landforms such as lava, clay forests and geothermal fountains, and to protect eco-systems such as the Lhalu Wetland Nature Reserve.

At present, there are over 9,600 species of wild plants, 6,400 species of higher plants, 798 species of vertebrates, 488 species of birds, and 760 aquatic species in Tibet. They include 125 species of wild animals and 39 species of wild plants subject to national protection.

State-Class Qomolangma Nature Reserve: Located on the boundary of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Nepal, the reserve, covering an area of 3.381 million hectares, was set up in 1989 and upgraded to State level by the State Council in 1994. As a nature reserve with the highest elevation in the world, it is the cradle to some rare species under State key protection such as the virgin forest in western Tibet as well as snow leopard, the Himalayan Tar Sheep, long-tailed leaf monkey and Himalayan firs. In addition it is home to five of the world¡¯s 14 mountains that rise over 8,000 meters. The extreme alpine ecological system and environmental background conditions have been well preserved and possess high research value.

Surveys show that the nature reserve is home to 2,348 species of higher plants, 53 species of mammals, 206 species of birds and eight species of amphibians. These include 47 kinds of rare animals and plants under State protection, all of which are on the verge of extinction; ten plants are subject to State Class I protection, and 28 plants subject to State Class II protection. The nature reserve possesses rich tourism resources, with unique landscapes, and cultural and historical relics. The boundless scientific research value of the Qomolangma Nature Reserve is a precious research base for studying alpine eco-geography, plate motion, geological development of the plateau, environmental science as well as social and cultural sciences.

State-Class Changtang Nature Reserve: With a total area of 247,120 sq. km, it is the second largest nature reserve in the world behind the Greenland National Park located adjacent to the North Pole. Surrounded by the Kunlunshan mountain range, the Kalakunlun and Gangdese-Nyangqentanglha mountain ranges, with elevation ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 meters, Changtang retains a unique, highly frigid ecosystem. Inside the nature reserve is a vast sweep of open land dotted with headstream lakes. The few human beings in the area are scattered widely across the freezing grassland, providing local animals with an ample supply of food. Moreover, melting ice and snow feed the local rivers and salt lakes, supplying the local animal population with enough water and edible salt and enabling some rare and special species to survive and multiply. At present, there are over 70 kinds of seed plants, 38 kinds of mammals, three kinds of reptiles, 70-plus kinds of birds and over 10 kinds of fish in the nature reserve. Wild animals here are numerous, the overwhelming majority being unique to the reserve, which has been listed as an area enjoying the most special kind of protection for biological diversity or subject to optimized protection of the China Bio-Diversity Protection Action Program. Doing a good job in this regard is obviously of global importance.

State-Class Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon Nature Reserve: Established in 1984, the nature reserve is located in the U-turn made by the Yarlung Zangbo River in the southeast of the TAR. With an elevation of from 750 to 4,800 meters, the canyon features deep rivers, abyssal gorges, skyscraping mountains and numerous waterfalls; these form an physiographic contrast rarely found. With an area of 9,168 square km, the canyon won approval of the State Council in 2000 to be renamed the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon Nature Reserve with a view to protecting the ¡°vertical sights¡± of the mountainous forests as well as valuable and rare animals and plants.

The nature reserve is located at a latitude of 29 degrees north, but is home to tropical biological species. Statistics show it boasts 3,768 kinds of higher plants, 512 kinds of mosses, 686 kinds of large fungi, and 209 kinds of rust fungi; as well as 63 kinds of mammals, 232 kinds of birds, 25 kinds of reptiles, 19 kinds of amphibians and over 2,000 kinds of insects. They include over 40 kinds of wild animals subject to State special protection. Therefore, the nature reserve is referred to as the "natural museum of plants and animals" of Tibet.

Ongren Tagegyia Geothermal Geysers Nature Reserve: With an area of 400 hectares, the nature reserve, which belongs to the category of geological relics, is set up for the special protection of geothermal geyser groups that are rare and as well fragile. They are located in Ongren County, Xigaze.

Bome Gangxiang Nature Reserve: The nature reserve is 22 km west of Zam county seat, and covers an area of 4,600 hectares, including some 2,800 hectares of forests. The forest coverage rate reaches more than 61 percent. The growth rate, the sustained phase of growth and the stock volume per unit of the trees in this area are all far more than those of other forests in China, especially that of spruce. In the nature reserve, valuable and rare wide animals move about frequently, and various rare traditional Chinese medicines are found in abundance. In 1984, it was listed as a nature reserve mainly devoted to preserving the forest ecosystem with the abundant coniferous forests as its priority. The animal resources are also profuse, such as the Takin, leopard, argali, black bear, macaque, snow pheasant, musk deer, parrot, and Feishi yellow muntjac.

Rewoqe Changmaoling Red Deer Nature Reserve: Lying in the area drained by the Changmaoling River on the upper reaches of the Lancangjiang [Mekong] River in the northeast of Tibet and covering an area of 64000 hectares, its main protective objects are the red deer and the overall ecological environment. The wild red deer is large-scale precious wild animal subject to key State and autonomous region protection. As early as in the 1970s, the first Natural Red Deer Domestication Field was set up in the Nadaintong Plain of this reserve. With wild red deer virtually disappearing from most parts of the country, there are still more than 1,000 of them in this district. In 1985, it was regulated as the Wild Red Deer Nature Reserve with the environment on which the species relies for existence.

Nyingchi Tongqug Red-Spotted Antelope Nature Reserve: Situated on the trunk line of the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, 500 km from Lhasa and covering an area of 23,000 hectares, its main protective objects are rare animals such as red-spotted antelope and the ecological system. There are 12 plants subject to key State protection and 50 animals with the red-spotted antelope as its priority subject to key State and nature reserve protection. The red-spotted antelope is an extremely rare animal at present and, prior to 1973, none were known to be in the Tibet region. The distribution area is extremely narrow and small with the total number of red-spotted antelopes being less than 1,500, so this nature reserve has become a base for preserving the species.

Lhunzhub Pengbo Black-necked Cranes Nature Reserve: Lying in the Pengbo Valley, a branch of the Lhasa River, in the south of Lhunzhub County with an altitude of 3,800 meters and an area of 9,680 hectares, its main topographical forms are valley, grassland, marsh, man-made woodland and farmland. From September to October every year, the black-necked cranes fly south to the Pengbo Valley from northern Tibet to winter and then return northwards to breed from April to May the next year. There are about 1,520 black-necked cranes inhabiting the area and more than 3,000 passing through and resting in this nature reserve, which also has more than 40 animals under first or second-class State protection, in which the white-lip deer is also subject to key protection.

Mangkang Yangjin Yunnan Golden Monkeys Nature Reserve: Lying in the area of Mangkang Mountain, south adjoining the Yunling Mountain Chain in the northwest of Yunnan Province, with an altitude between 3,500 to 4,500 meters, it is warm and cool and has achieved good preservation of forest vegetation. Yunnan Golden Monkeys, one of the 22 kinds of rare animals in China and an animal enjoying first-class State protection, live here. Though the terrain in this nature reserve is dangerously steep, the Yunnan-Tibet Highway traverses it and it is one of the reserves with comparatively convenient traffic conditions in Tibet.

Nam Co Lake Nature Reserve at Autonomous Regional Level: Nam Co Lake annually produces an estimated 2,183 tons of fish, thus providing rich food for birds. The island in the center of lake is unpopulated, thus becoming an ideal habitat for all kinds of bird. At present, it houses a dozen kinds of bird such as Tibetan snow cock, pintail sand grouse, ruddy sheldrake, bar-headed goose, saker, brown-headed gull and turtledove. In addition, there is lush float grass in the drainage basin and people there actively protect all kinds of wild animals, thereby creating the conditions for the living and multiplying of animals such as wild yak, blue sheep, brown bear, snow leopard, Tibetan antelope etc.

Xigaze Qunrang Ball and Pillow Lava Nature Reserve of Autonomous Regional Level: This covers an area of 140 hectares and mainly protects lava and landforms. Xigaze Qunrang pillow lava is of typical characteristics of mid-ocean ridge basalt, thus becoming direct evidence of volcanic eruptions on the seabed. At the same time, it also evidence of the collision between the Euro-Asian Plate and the Indian Continental Plate, and is of important significance in researching the geological history and evolvement of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Xainzha Black-necked Crane Nature Reserve of the Autonomous Regional Level: This covers a total area of four million hectares, in which the main protection targets are black-necked crane and wetland ecosystem. Lying in Xainzha County of Nagqu Prefecture of northern Tibet, it is located in the broad lake basin in the south of the Changtang river area. Due to the lower mineralization of the lake water, it is suitable for the living and multiplying of aqui-colous organisms and water birds. Especially fluvial bog meadow consisting of low-lying lake areas in which wormwood is widely distributed, and rivers such as Baru Zangbo and Yumzhub Zangbo have helped the nature reserve develop a good inland wetland and water area ecosystem and become the ideal habitat of the black-necked crane subject to the first-class State protection. It also is the reserve with the highest elevation and largest area among the existing seven black-necked crane nature reserves in China.

Lhalu Wetland Nature Reserve: This covers a total area of 6.2 square km at an average elevation of 3,645 meters. It is the world¡¯s highest and largest and China¡¯s sole inland natural wetland, an important habitat of the black-necked crane and golden eagle, both subject to first-class State protection.

Zada Clay Forest Nature Reserve of the Autonomous Regional Level: The nature reserve falls into the category of geological relics. With a total area of 560,000 hectares, it was set up mainly to protect clay forests.

Gyilung Gyangcain Village Nature Reserve and Zam Gully Aesthetic Forest Reserve: These were set up mainly to protect rare trees such as long-leafed spruce and Tibetan longleaf pine.

Nyingchi County Bagyi Cypress Forest Nature Reserve: This mainly protects the cypress forest.

Nylam Camphor Tree Nature Reserve of Autonomous Regional Level: The Nylam Camphor Tree Nature Reserve of Autonomous Regional Level mainly protects camphor tree forests.

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