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Biodiversity protection boosted by latest plan

Migratory birds rest at the Yellow River Delta national nature reserve in Dongying, Shandong province, in December. [Photo by Zhou Guangxue/For China Daily]

Restoration of 30% of nation's degraded ecosystems to be achieved this decade

China has further enhanced its top-level design for biodiversity conservation with a 2023-30 national strategy and an action plan that vows to restore at least 30 percent of the nation's degraded ecosystems by the end of this decade.

The document, which was made public on Thursday last week, noted the grim situation for biodiversity conservation in China, saying: "The country's ecosystems, species and genetic diversity are all suffering from varying degrees of degradation and loss."

With degradation to one degree or another, the country's grassland ecosystems are generally fragile, it noted. Functional degradation and loss have also occurred in the ecosystems of some rivers, wetlands and lakes.

Quoting the Redlist of China's Biodiversity, the latest version of which was made public last year, the action plan said 4,088 of the higher plant species, or roughly 10 percent of the total assessed, were under threat.

It said 1,050 vertebrate species in the country — excluding fish — were also under threat, representing some 22 percent of the total assessed.

"There remain significant conflicts between biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic development in different regions," it said.

Overexploitation, intensified land use changes that have encroached upon natural spaces and the disorderly development of biological resources have further exacerbated the biodiversity conservation situation, it said.

Shen Manhong, dean of Zhejiang A&F University's Institute of Ecological Civilization, said the document has made China's biodiversity conservation even more systematic.

It not only includes control measures, but also incentives and awareness measures that can make people more willing to protect biodiversity, said Shen, who is also former Party secretary of the university in Hangzhou, Zhejiang's provincial capital.

The action plan includes measures that aim to relieve the country from biodiversity loss.

One of the priorities is to beef up the country's capability in biodiversity surveying and monitoring.

By 2030, the country will strive to see ecosystems in key areas, key species and important genetic resources covered by regular surveying and monitoring, it said.

The document said China will improve a mechanism known as "ecological compensation" to better protect the environment, thus helping the areas shouldering key ecological functions, source regions for important water bodies and protected natural areas be compensated economically for their efforts.

"Ecological compensation is a good mechanism. But currently, China's policy support for it is still modest," Shen said.

He called for payments to protectors to be significantly increased to address the costs associated with their protection efforts.

The document said that by 2030, China will begin to gradually establish a mechanism under which those who intrude into and occupy ecological spaces will have to pay for the damages they cause.

The document said the country will make it mandatory for enterprises to release information concerning biodiversity conservation.

By 2030, a long-term mechanism will be worked out to promote enterprises to protect and sustainably utilize biodiversity resources, it said.

The country will also regularly monitor and assess the risks posed by key enterprises on biodiversity resources, as well as their dependence and potential impacts on such resources, it noted.