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President Xi Jinping staked out China's role as a committed player to tackle the climate crisis and build an "ecological civilization." In a review published July 10 in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, researchers discuss one of the Chinese government's efforts—reforming the management of protected areas by streamlining agencies' responsibilities and reducing functional overlaps.
"First of all, China is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world," says senior author Zhiyun Ouyang, Professor at the Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. From permanent ice fields, to tropical forests and deserts, China's diverse ecosystems hold 15 percent of the world's vertebrates and 12 percent of its plants. "Second, China's got the fastest growing economy. The rapid development of resources, land utilization, and urbanization can have impacts on the wildlife habitat. We need to establish a nature protected area system as soon as possible to protect biodiversity and important habitats."
China - Nature - Reserve - Number - Area
Since China established its first nature reserve in 1956, the number blossomed to over 12,000, covering a total area just slightly larger than the US state of Alaska or the Australian state of Queensland. Although the protected areas account for 20 percent of China's land surface, it was ineffective. Researchers pointed out that the main problem is fragmented management. One or more government departments and agencies with different goals manage the same site. The administration overlooked some of the areas that need urgent protection while overprotecting others. Development often came at the expense of conservation under these circumstances.
"To address the problem, China's government implemented some institutional reforms," Ouyang says. "Protected areas used to be managed by seven different departments. Now, they are all managed by one department, the National Park Administration. We have the opportunity to establish a cohesive system for protected area management....
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