• Ecology
Sanjiangyuan: Source of Life
Text by Zi Mei


A rainbow in Jiangyuan Glacier Nature Reserve. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau’s weather changes frequently, which causes many natural splendors. by Li Xiaonan  Jiangyuan Glacier. At the center of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Jiangyuan Glacier Nature Reserve surrounds the Gela Dandong Snow Mountains, which are home to many glaciers and the source the Yangtze River.  by Cai Zheng  The Yellow River system. The Yellow River originates in the Bayan Har Moutains before flowing through nine provinces and emptying into the Bohai Sea. by Zhi Yue

Covering 395,000 square kilometers, China’s Sanjiangyuan (literally, “Source of Three Rivers”) National Nature Reserve is home to the sources of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers. Dotted with numerous lakes, swamps and glaciers, Sanjiangyuan is a critical source of fresh water for China and thus nicknamed the “Chinese Water Tower.” Its habitat of diverse flora and fauna at high altitudes makes the region acutely sensitive to climate change and a warning flag for the Asian and even world ecology.

For instance, at the end of the 20th Century, due to climate change and human activities, Sanjiangyuan was suffering serious environmental destruction. To restore the region’s ecosystem, in 2000, the San-jiangyuan National Nature Reserve was set up. Since 2005, the Chinese government has been implementing the Sanjiangyuan Protection Campaign. With the first and second phases of the campaign completed, the situation in Sanjiangyuan has already improved.


Ecological Recovery

“In recent years, when we go to countryside, we often see flocks of Tibetan wild donkeys, antelopes, wolves, and even brown bears,” says Gezha, head of Shanglaxiu Township in  Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. “Sometimes the animals even chase the car.”

According to 2015 statistics issued by Sanjiangyuan Protection Campaign Office, in the prefecture of Yushu alone, the number of bird species has increased from 31 to 61. Population of black-necked cranes has grown from 20 to 200, bar-headed geese from 800 to over 10,000, and Tibetan antelopes, nicknamed “plateau spirit,” from 20,000 to 70,000. Even some of the most threatened flagship species of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau such as the snow leopard and brown bear are occasionally seen and sometimes even stop by local villages.

After the first phase of the Sanjiangyuan Protection Campaign, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) assessed the work of the project: Ecological deterioration in the reserve had been abated to some extent, ecological capacity had been improved and the ecological situation of some prioritized areas had been greatly improved.



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