Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wolong National Nature Reserve

Wolong National Nature Reserve is a protected area located in Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province, People's Republic of China. Established in 1963, the reserve covers an area of about 200,000 hectares. There are over 4,000 different species recorded in the reserve. Wolong National Nature Reserve houses more than 150 highly endangered giant pandas.

In June 1980, the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda was established at Wolong with the efforts of both World Wildlife Fund|World Wildlife Fund and the Chinese government. To this date, researchers have conducted many breeding research on giant pandas and have successfully bred 66 panda cubs.

A mountain stream runs through the Wolong Valley ; the stream is heavily armoured with boulders and smaller rounded stones. Stream waters are rather alkaline with pH levels in the range of 8.91. Water quality turbidity is quite high due to extensive sand and gravel mining in stream.

According to a 2001 research by Dr. Jianguo Liu of Michigan State University, the rate of destruction is higher after the reserve's creation than before its creation. Using NASA's satellite images and records of population, Liu's research team concluded that due to tourism and the increase in local population, the reserve is facing an unprecedented threat. "Tourists don't think they have an impact on panda habitat, but indirectly each visitor has some impact," Liu said. "We don't see ourselves as a destructive force, but we are."

Wolong National Nature Reserve is located in the boundaries of Wenchuan County, Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, by the left bank of upper reach of Minjiang River and the east slope of Gonglai Mountain, and 134 kilometers away from the capital city Chengdu. The Reserve is 52 kilometers long from east to west, and 62 kilometers wide from south to north, covering an area of about 700,000 hectares. Established in 1963, the Reserve joined the International Man and Biosphere Reserve Network of UNESCO in 1980, and its main targets for protection are forest ecosystem and precious animals like giant pandas.


The climate in the Reserve is unique for it is located at the transitional part of Tibetan frigid and Sichuan temperate zones. The terrain of Wolong National Nature Reserve is half closed in a wonderful setting of forest surrounded by rugged snowcapped mountains in its north, west and south respectively. There is no cold current flowing in winter. And in the summer months the Reserve, with the Tibetan Plateau rising steeply to the west, receives the moisture-laden south-easterly monsoon winds and becomes a cloudy, humidity trap. There is no big disparity of temperature here in four seasons with no cold winter or hot summer. The annual average temperature is 4℃ to 5℃.The annual average precipitation here can top 1,100 millimeters.

Physical Features

The Reserve lies in the east slope of Gonglai Mountain, and the alpine valley where the Tibetan Plateau transits into Sichuan Basin. The Reserve slopes drastically from northwest to southeast. Mujiang Ground in its east section, the lowest point, has an elevation of 1,200 meters while the highest point Siguniang Mountain with an altitude of 6,250 meters. Despite their direct distance of 48 kilometers, their relative height difference tops 5,000 meters. There are 101 mountains with an altitude of over 5,000 meters including Balang Mountain, Niutou Mountain and Qianliang Mountain. Drastically tectonic movement and erosion have formed a number of valleys in the shape of V and steams flowing smoothly. All of them constitute a scenic splendor attracting world attention.


Located in the alpine valley where the Tibetan Plateau transits into Sichuan Basin, Wolong National Nature Reserve has become China's largest and certainly the most important sanctuary for giant pandas and other rare and precious animals and plants during the climatic fluctuations of the ice age, and consequently southwest China has the richest alpine and sub-alpine flora than anywhere in the world. Primitive forest and original ecosystem here are well preserved, and therefore the Reserve is appraised as a rare genebank in the world or a natural park. The subtropical damp climate provides favorable conditions for forest and vegetation to grow. According to relevant statistics, there are more than 4,000 plant species. Fragesia denudata, dove trees, Katsura trees and other precious plants grow densely under the lush coniferous forest or coniferous and broadleaved mixed forest.


In the Reserve there are over 50 species of animals and 300 species of birds. The number of giant pandas here approximately accounts for one tenth of the total, and therefore Wolong National Nature Reserve is also identified as homeland of giant pandas. Besides giant pandas, red pandas, golden pheasants, white-eared pheasants and Chinese monals as well as the stunning Firethroats, golden monkeys and Musk Deer can also be found here. Most of these animals live in temperate coniferous and broadleaved mixed forest between the altitude of 2,200-3,600 meters.

Wolong National Nature Reserve is the most famous one among the 13 giant panda reserve centers established by the Chinese government with the help of the World Wildlife Fund . Wolong National Nature Reserve is also the first one of its kind to set up a research center for giant pandas. Zoologists at home and abroad have made ecological observation of giant pandas including its number, distribution, breeding and population structure. And remarkable achievements have been made in the past years.

No comments: