Biodiversity in Kunming

Updated: August 9, 2021

Yunnan province is the only “biodiversity oasis” on the Tropic of Cancer. It has 313 species of beasts, or 16.1 percent of the world’s total, 945 species of birds, or 15.2 percent of the world's total; 617 species of freshwater fish, or 18.2 percent; and 2,273 species of vertebrates, or 13.8 percent. In addition to the traditional species in Yunnan, new species have frequently been discovered in the province over the years. 

There are 25,434 species of vertebrates, higher plants, macrofungi, and lichens in the province, of which those of higher plants and vertebrates account for more than half in China, including many under state protection.

Despite the fact that Yunnan accounts for only 4.1 percent of China's land area, it has abundant species resources, precious genetic resources and complex and diverse ecosystems. According to the Inventory of Ecosystems in Yunnan Province (2018), the province has almost all types of terrestrial ecosystems on earth, ranging from tropical forests to mountains, periglacial landforms and deserts.

With the richest biodiversity in China, Yunnan features a unique geographical location, a complex landform, and varied climatic conditions.

Located in the transition zone between the Indo-China Peninsula and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Yunnan is adjacent to China’s eastern monsoon region to the east, northern Myanmar and tropical areas of India to the west, the Asian continent to the north, and the vast Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean to the south. Different biogeographical regions and species distribution converge here.

The tectonic movement of the transitional areas between the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Indo-China Peninsula has formed a series of longitudinal range-gorge regions in the north-south direction. The largest height difference, between the Khawa Karpo Peak of Meili Snow Mountain and Honghe River in the lowermost estuary, is 6,663.6 meters. Due to the tropical warm and humid air, the southwest monsoon and the westerly winds in the southwest Gulf of Bangladesh in the Indian Ocean, as well as the huge altitude difference between the north and the south, Yunnan features unique and diverse climate types and extremely rich biodiversity.

As early as 2004, a major national basic research on ecosystem changes in longitudinal range-gorge regions and cross border ecological security in Southwest China was launched by Yunnan University, which marked the kickoff of large-scale scientific research on transboundary ecological security.

Since 2006, Yunnan has strengthened collaboration with neighboring countries such as Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in cross-border biodiversity conservation. A 200,000-hectare cross-border joint biodiversity conservation region that covers Xishuangbanna of China and three provinces in North Laos has been established. Many forums, conferences, and meetings have been held between China and Myanmar on forest resource conservation and community development, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, as well as forestry cooperation. In addition, Yunnan has signed a border forestry and wildlife protection cooperation agreement with Vietnam, and increased cooperation and sharing with Thailand and Cambodia. It is now possible to see Asian elephants roaming along the border highways from China to Laos thanks to the cross-border biodiversity protection, which has become a new highlight of Lancang-Mekong cooperation.

The great achievement of biodiversity in Yunnan could not have been made without the continuous conservation carried out throughout the province.

Over the years, the Yunnan Provincial Party Committee and the Yunnan Provincial Government have attached great importance to biodiversity conservation, establishing a biodiversity conservation foundation as well as a biodiversity conservation committee and an expert committee. The cities and prefectures in the province have also established a work coordination mechanism for biodiversity protection.

Yunnan has also issued a lot of planning and programs to ensure the implementation of biodiversity conservation.

In 2007, Yunnan released the Project Planning for Biodiversity Conservation in Yunnan Province following the initiation of the Conservation Action Plan for Colorful Yunnan. The document clarified the relationship between biodiversity conservation and economic development for the first time. From 2008 to 2012, the province issued the Lijiang Declaration, Tengchong Program, and Xishuangbanna Agreement, which further expanded the scope of biodiversity conservation. 

In addition to step up biodiversity conservation, the Yunnan Provincial Government formulated the Planning Outline for the Rescue and Conservation of Species with Extremely Small Populations in Yunnan Province (2010-2020) and the Planning Outline for the Protection and Utilization of Biological Species Resources in Yunnan Province (2011-2020). These outlines and plans support species rescue and protection at different levels.

In 2010, China issued the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, and the Yunnan Provincial Government in early 2013 approved the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in Yunnan (2012-2030), which was among the first in the nation. In accordance with Yunnan’s biodiversity strategy and action plan, six priority regions were identified and 34 initiatives in nine fields were suggested to strengthen biodiversity management across the province, which clarified the goals, tasks and actions for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity resources in Yunnan.

From 2016 to 2018, Yunnan issued a series of projects and plans to increase its biodiversity conservation efforts. They include the Major Projects for Biodiversity Conservation in Yunnan Province (2016-2020), Planning for Priority Regions for Biodiversity conservation in Yunnan Province (2017-2030), the Development Plan for Nature Reserves in Yunnan Province (2017-2025) and the Development Plan for Wetland Parks in Yunnan Province (2018-2025).

Yunnan also highlights local legislation on biodiversity protection and management, in addition to national laws and regulations. The laws and regulations protect wildlife resources, forests, rare and precious tree species and ecosystems as well as the nature reserves and scenic spots, and they provide a specific provincial legal basis for biodiversity conservation actions.