China's largest inland saltwater lake ready for national park status

(Xinhua) 09:46, February 28, 2024

XINING, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Qinghai Lake, China's largest inland saltwater lake, is poised to become a new national park, a milestone in terms of the ecological protection of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau.

All tasks required for the establishment of a national park at Qinghai Lake have been completed, said Wu Xiaojun, governor of northwest China's Qinghai Province.

Wu added that Qinghai has proved a national leader in national park construction, citing the release of a master plan for comprehensive protection of the Sanjiangyuan National Park last year as well as the upcoming official designation of the Qilian Mountain National Park.

Qinghai Lake, located in the northeastern part of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, is an important ecological barrier in northern China and a key stopover site for migratory birds.

In 2022, China approved a plan to establish a national park at Qinghai Lake, which has seen its ecological environment improved and biodiversity rapidly restored in recent years.

"The planned scope of the Qinghai Lake national park demonstrates its national representativeness, ecological significance, and the feasibility of management," said Dong Fuhai, director of the protection and utilization administration in the Qinghai Lake scenic area.

According to the plan, the core protection areas of the Qinghai Lake national park consist of the main source areas of rivers flowing into Qinghai Lake, habitats of rare and endangered species such as the Przewalski's gazelle, key migratory channels for naked carp, and areas critical for bird migration.

Based on the pivotal status of Qinghai Lake in terms of ecological security, the local government has adopted a holistic strategy to safeguard the authenticity, integrity, and biodiversity of the ecosystem, said Dong.

This approach has resulted in a sustained expansion of wetland areas, an increase of high-density vegetation coverage, and strengthened overall ecological functions at Qinghai Lake. Meanwhile, areas consisting of sandy, bare, and saline-alkali land within the protected area are steadily diminishing.

In 2020, the water level of Qinghai Lake reached 3,196.62 meters, marking a rise of 3.65 meters compared to 2004. Its water body covered an area of 4,588.81 square km, an increase of 344.31 square km compared to 2004, thus reaching levels last seen back in the 1960s.

Today, the lake is home to over 606,000 water birds made up of 288 species, confirming its status as one of China's major breeding grounds for migratory birds.

The naked carp, known as "Huangyu" in China, is endemic to Qinghai Lake. At one point, overfishing of the naked carp led to a sharp decline in its population.

Through continuous protection efforts, from 2002 to 2020, the naked carp population in Qinghai Lake recorded a nearly 38-fold increase. Currently, the reserves of this species have been restored to 120,000 tonnes.

"The coexistence of fish and birds represents a significant achievement in recent years in improving the ecological environment of Qinghai Lake. It is vital for maintaining the security of the ecological chain in the Qinghai Lake basin," said He Yubang, head of the Qinghai Lake national nature reserve administration.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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