The UNDP/GEF Qinghai Biodiversity Conservation Project was successfully launched by the Qinghai Forestry Department in January 2013 with support and co-financing from the provincial government. Most of the province is situated over 4000 meters – including the Qilian, Kunlun, Tanggula and other high mountain ranges. A spectacular suite of globally endangered wildlife is still present in these highlands, including Tibetan antelope, wild yak, white lipped deer, argali, snow leopard, black necked crane, saker falcon, etc.
The ecosystems we live within and the biodiversity that enriches them form the web of life on which every human being depends. Photographs by Kieran Dodds, Jesse Montes and Marc Foggin are amongst those included in the UNDP-GEF exhibit about Protected Areas launched in Sydney in November 2014.
“Education will ruin our culture” laments Dorje, a local Tibetan teacher describing how compulsory education is driving the resettlement of nomads. “These lifestyles are endangered. You rarely see people on horseback nowadays. To improve the living standard depends on education but to save our culture depends more on the people”. The Tibetan plateau is the world’s third pole, with vast ice-fields giving rise to waterways that influence the lives of 40% of the global population downstream. Sanjiangyuan (or ‘The Three Rivers Headwaters’) Nature Reserve is China’s water tower, strategically vital and jealously guarded. Yet it is also home to some of the last Tibetan nomads whose traditional lifestyle is now, more then ever, under threat. “The waters from Sanjiangyuan sustain life for 600 million people downstream but in recent years this vast water tower is under threat,” says Dr Marc Foggin, a conservation biologist.
“The North Pole, South Pole, and Tibetan Plateau are changing more rapidly than elsewhere,” says Marc Foggin, executive director of Plateau Perspectives, an international organization that aims to improve local people’s lives and protect the natural environment through community-based projects.
Launched in January, this five-year project — co-financed by the provincial government, the UNDP and the GEF — seeks to increase the efficiency of PA management in this region where wetlands cover 6 percent of the area, including rivers, flooded grasslands and both freshwater and saline lakes.
Our primary goal is to support positive change among the communities who supply our wool. We buy at a fair rate directly from herder families, and we pay this same rate throughout the buying season. This gives herders security, as the price they earn is often dependent on the whim of the agent in town that day. We also pay a stipend, which this year was about 10 percent on top of the purchase price. We buy the wool and pay the stipend via a herders’ cooperative called KeGaWa.
The Sanjiangyuan (or “Three Rivers Headwaters”) Nature Reserve acts as China’s water tower. Covering 363,000 square kilometres at an average elevation of 4,000 metres, it is also home to the last Tibetan nomads.
Sometimes described as the engine of the global climate system because of its role in climate and water systems, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in western China, with its fragile and sensitive ecosystem, is considered a “canary-in-the-mine” for global climate change.
For 5,000 years the nomads of the region have roamed these lands, freely moving their flocks of sheep and cattle with the changing seasons. But over the past decade these people have been moved, often against their will, from the grasslands and into newly constructed towns and villages across the plateau.
In 2000, China’s new “Western Development Strategy” was introduced by the central government, aimed at bringing improvements to the poverty-stricken west through infrastructural investment. As part of this strategy, it was deemed necessary to encourage the removal of the nomads of the highland grasslands in order to protect the important headwaters region.
Rangelands cover 69% of the world’s agricultural land and around 40% of all global land surfaces, providing habitats for domestic livestock, and a diversity of wild plants and animals. However, a general perception exists that there is unfavourable competition between wildlife and livestock production. This view has led to policies and programmes that increasingly segregate the two sectors, often resulting in political and economic conflict between pastoralists and others.
Over the past several months, many of our team members have been engaged in advancing our
community ecotourism project, which aims to support communities’ economic development in
one of the largest nature reserves in the world. Simultaneously, local people are involved in the
conservation of the grassland ecosystems and of rare and endangered wildlife species.
Researchers recently completed a 6-year effort in which they documented more than 1,000 wild herbs in the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve on the Tibetan plateau in Qinghai Province, China. The scientists identified 575 varieties of medicinal herbs—six of which were previously unknown to the area—and captured more than 100,000 photographs of local flora. The Sanjiangyuan region (translated as “Three Rivers’ Source”) comprises the headwaters of the Yellow, Yangtze, and Mekong Rivers. The greater Tibetan plateau has been described as the “Third Pole” or the “Roof of the Earth” in terms of ecological importance.
YUSHU, Qinghai, May 31 (Xinhua) — Queues quickly formed in front of a make-shift shelter at a hillside village as relief goods were being prepared for distribution.
People lined up for free cotton underwear, socks, solar-powered lights, and dishware — sometimes beds and tents were also available there.
Queues quickly formed in front of a make-shift shelter at a hillside village as relief goods were being prepared for distribution. People lined up for free cotton underwear, socks, solar-powered lights, and dishware — sometimes beds and tents were also available there.
On the high plains of Qinghai province … a massive earthquake killed hundreds.
The provincial government asked Foggin, whose NGO has operated in Yushu for nearly a decade and opened 11 village clinics in the area, to send help from Xining as quickly as possible.
When a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Tibetan plateau last April, bringing many of the buildings in remote Yushu County crumbling down, the calls for help went out to the usual sources: the monks in the town’s main lamasery, the massive apparatus that is the Chinese government – and a tiny Canadian-Scottish charity.
WWF Mongolia and WWF Russia held a meeting in Ulaanbaatar with colleagues from Tibet working on snow leopard’s conservation. At the workshop with WWF, Plateau Perspectives staff told about the community-based conservation work in Qinghai Province (China) focused on the snow leopard, black-necked crane and Tibetan antelope.
The pika eradication effort could have unintended consequences for other species, Foggin and Smith wrote in what is considered the definitive study in Animal Conservation in 1999.
An Arizona State University graduate student studying the Tibetan plateau in China is helping nomadic yak herders fight two years of savage winters. Biology student Marc Foggin went to the Qinghai Province of China to learn how best to sustain development and ecology on the grasslands of Tibet, one of the harshest environments in the world.