Biodiversity and Conservation of Changbai Mt. Biosphere Reserve;

Current Status, Problems and Perspectives


Zhao Shidong

 Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China





    Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve located in N.E. of China is one of the biggest reserves in China and is very rich in biodiversity. For many reasons resulted from the social and economical factors, there are serious problems on biodiversity conservation in this area now. The current status of biodiversity, the problems on biodiversity conservation and the strategy dealing with research and management in this reserve are presented in this paper.



1. Introduction


    Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve is located in N.E.China, rest-ing between 41 41 49 -42 25 18 N. and 127 42 55-128 16 48 E. It was established in 1960 and was nominated as a biosphere reserve in 1979. Its size is 190,582 ha, in which is a core area of 133,841 ha and buffer zone of 83,394 ha. There are no villages within the core area (see Fig.1).

The highest peak in the Changbai ranges is Baitou Mountain, a magnificent dormant volcano dating back geologically to the second swell of Neocathaysian. Reflecting a long history of volcanic activity, today Baitou Provides a model of a volcanic cone, titled lava plateau and lava tableland. Many small volcanic islands can be found in this plateau and tableland, whose gradient diminishes as it reaches lower elevations.

    On the north and west side of the Reserve, the land surface is smooth, while it undulates on the south and southwest region. Due to organic movements and fluvial activities, many gorges are formed in the area. The overall elevation of the Changbai Reserve ranges from 720 at its nadir to Baiyun Peaks 2,691 m summit, the tallest in Northeast China. From the heights of Baiyun and Wangtians peak, radiating water systems have developed into the rivers of Toudaobaihe, Erdaobaihe, Caozihe, Jingjiang and others, among which Redaobaihe is a major fountainhead of the Second Songhuajiang River. Originating on the south slopes of Baitou, the Yaiujiang is a border river between Korea and China.



Fig.1 Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve (northern part)


    Since the Asiatic monsoon affects the reserves temperate continental mountainous climate, the seasons are characterized as dry and windy spring, short and rainy summer, cool and foggy autumn, and long and cold winter. The mean annual temperature range from 7.3 to 3.3, with Julys mean spanning 8.7 to 19.3, and Januarys -23.3 to -16.1. The lowest recorded temperature on Baiyons peak is -44. Precipitation measurements lie between 700 mm and 1,240 mm; annual irradiant is 124.01 kcal per sq. cm; and the reserve remains frost free anywhere from 60 to 123 days.

    In 1961, the Reserve established a management institution in the town of Erdaobaihe, Antou County, 277 km away by rail from the closest big city, Tonghua. North of Erdaobaihe lies the cities of Dunhua and Antu, accessible to the convenient highway infrastructure of Changbai. On Baitou Mountain, a thoroughfare rises to Taiwen Peak, while the southern and western slopes are accessed by a good road network.

    Surrounding the reserve are five local forestry units designed for timber production. There are many conflicts between timber production and conservation along the border of the reserve.

    The local administration is Changbai Mountain Natural Reserve Bureau, located in Tonghua County, Jilin Province. The total staff of the Bureau is 244: 72 protection workers, 28 professional workers, 12 construction workers and 132 support workers. In order to improve understanding and management of natural resources in this area, Changbai Mountain Forest Ecosystem Research Station, sponsored by the Institute of Applied ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, was founded in 1979. Since then, an integrated long-term ecological research project Structure, Function and Productivity of Forest Ecosystems in Changbai Mountain has been operated. Up to now, about 100 scientists from eleven institutions have been involved in this project, and about 200 scientific papers have been published. This station was nominated as an international station by Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1989, and the project as a international pilot project by the Headquarters of MAB in Paris. Thorough joint efforts of scientists, Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve has become an important research center of biodiviersity conservation and management of natural resources in China.



2. Biodiversity resources


    Complex landscape types, climate variations, and favorable water and temperature conditions divide the Reserves abundant species of vegetation into distinct attitudinal zonations. As such, Changbai is regarded as Northeast Chinas natural treasure house of biological resources.

    Broad-leaved species/Korean pine forest is the zonal vegetation in this area, called as Changbai Flora, with some elements of South Okhotsk and Polar Flora. From the reserves lowest to its highest points, the vegetation can be divided into four attitudinal zones (see Fig.2):


Below 1,100 m:              Broad-leaved species/Korea pine forest

                           mainly consisting of Pinus koraiensis,

                           Fraxinus mandshurica, Tilia amurensis,

                           Tilia mongolica, Juglans manshurica,

                           Phyllodendron amurense etc..

Between 1,100 and 1,700 m:    Coniferous forest mainly consisting of

                           Picea jezoensis var. komarovii, Pinus

                           koraiensis, Abies holophylla, A. nephro-

lepis etc..

Between 1,700 and 2,000 m:    Subalpine ermanii birch forest mainly

                           consisting of Betula ermanii



Fig.2 Altitudinal zonation of vegetation on north slope of Changbai Mountain


Above 2,000 m:              Alpine tundra mainly consisting of

                           Rhododendron confertissimum, R.

                           redowskianum, R. aureum, Vaccinium

                           vitis-idaea, etc.

    As to nonzonal vegetation types:

    the forest of Larix olgensis, Pinus sylvestris var. sylverstriformis.

    According to statistics, about 2,400 species of plants, including 1,500 vascular species, can be found here. Of the seventeen (17) listed as Nationally Protected, the Panax ginseng C.A.Mey is on the first level list, while the second level is represented by Malus komarovii (Sarg.) Rehd., Ophioglossum thermale Kom., Oplopanax elatus Nakai and Phyllitis japonica Kom. The third level encompasses Astragalus membranaceus, Boschniakia rossica, Salix macrolepis, Chosenia arbutifolia, Fraxinus mandshurica, Fritillaria ussuriensis, Gastrodia elata, Glycine soja, Juglans mandshurica, Phillodendron amurense, Pinus sylvestris var. sylvestriformis, Salix tschanbaishanica and Thuja koraiensis.

    The fauna of the Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve belongs to the Changbaishan subregion, Northeast Region, Palaearctic Realm. However, there still exist some remnants of the North China Region, Palaearctic Realm as well as from the Oriental Group and some cosmopolitans.

    Vertebrates in the area include nine aquatic species, nine amphibian, ten reptilian, 260 avian, and 51 mammalian, while more than 1,000 species of insects are represented. Animals currently listed under the national protection system number 53, eight in the first level and forty-five in the second. The Martes zibellina, Panthera pardus, Panthera tigris longipilis, Cervus nippon, Cioconia nigra, Mergus squamatus, Aquila chrysaetos, and Aquila heliaca comprise the first level group. Significant species among the forty-five second level protected animal species are the Cuon alpinus, Setenarctos thibetanus, Ursus arctos, Lutra lutra, Felis lynx, Moschus moschiferus, Cervus elaphus, Naemonrhedus goral, Cygnus cygnus, Aix galericulata, Lyrurus tetrix, Tetrastes bonasia, Crus grus, Anthropoides virgo, Pernis ptilorhyncus, Aegypius monachus, Pandion holiaetus, Falco peregrinus, Fako subbuteo, Otus scops, Bubo sp., and Luehdorfia puziloi.



3. Problems of conserving biodiversity


    3.1 Baseline of biodiversity in Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve is not very clear yet. According to the definition of biodiversity, it contains all of the life forms presented in levels of landscape, ecosystem, species and genes. Through continuous efforts in the last decades, although great achievements have been obtained, there is still a long way to go for getting clear picture about the baseline of this biodiversity in this reserve.

    3.2 Damages of human activities to biodiversity, such as hunting animals and collecting economic and medical plants, are very serious. Because of these continuous damages, tiger and Panax ginseng are nearly extinct in the reserve, and many others have already become endangered species. The most important reasons causing these damages are local peoples low income and poor education.

    3.3 Island effect. Because large amounts of forest which have been felled for timber production in the surrounding area, and much habitat is already lost in the surrounding area, many animals and plants in the reserve are becoming endangered and rare. This had caused the reserve to become a shrinking habitat island in an ocean of transformed landscape.

    3.4 No suitable design of reserve management, based on scientific research. There was a design, which was finished by officers who knew very little about scientific principle of reserve management. As a consequence, the current design of reserve management is not acceptable. For example, very little of the most valuable forest type virgin broad-leaved species/Korean pine forest is included in the core area, many facilities for tourists like hotels and training base of ski are put in the most sensitive part of the core area etc.

    3.5 Lack of professional personnel and chances available for the reserve managers to improve their knowledge on conservation.

    3.6 No enough and continually provided budget for the reserve management. So it is impossible for managers to build or improve the facilities like the information center, booklets, signs, maps and guide survey etc. in the reserve, which are very important for the public education.



4. Strategy


    The strategy dealing with solving the problems of conserving biodiversity in Changbai Mt. BR is related with the socioeconomic and scientific aspects.

    4.1 Socioeconomic aspects

    4.1.1 Population control. The implementation of population control policy has been very successful in the last tow decades in China. But due to the extremely large base number of the total population, the increase is still the most serious issue. There are many villages, town and cities in the surrounding area of Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve. Because the most important income of many local people is from the harvesting and hunting of the natural resources, population control is a key factor of improving biodiversity conservation in this area.

    4.1.2 Developing local economy and increasing the income of local people.

    Another most important reason for local people to damage the biodiversity is that they dont have other kinds of sources of earning money. Therefore, developing local economy and helping local people to get more income under the framework of sustainable using of the natural resources also is a key factor for biodiversity conservation.

    4.1.3 Improving local education system.

    Because of the poor local education system, most of the local people know little about the consequences of damaging biodiversity. Our suggestion is to pay more attention to the education of the children and put the conservation and other ecological knowledge in the text books in primary and high schools.

    4.1.4 Provding enough and continuous financial assistance for reserve management.

    4.1.5 Establishing suitable environment policies at both national and provincial levels to guarantee all of points mentioned above can be put into effect.

    4.2 Scientific Aspects

    In order to meet the challenges of conserving biodiversity in Changbai Mt. BR and surrounding area, the Changbai Mt. Forest Ecology Ecosystem Research Station was founded in 1979 and sponsored by the Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Since then, about one hundred scientists from thirteen institutions have been working on a long-term ecological research project Structure, Function and Dynamics of Forest Ecosystems in Changbai Mt.. This project has been divided into three phases. The aim in Phase One, from 1979-1982, was to survey the baseline of natural resources and conditions, while Phase Two, from 1983-1986, was focused on the features of Korean Pine forest and its management. Phase Three runs from 1987. Its main aims are, on the one hand, to conduct further research on the basic features of the forest ecosystems, and most importantly on the other hand, to synthesize and analyze the data already collected, and to obtain some reliable results which can be used to improve reserve management and forest ecosystems research for sustainable development. About 150 papers have been published up to now, and some of the results have already been widely applied. The project joined the MAB Program in 1980, and became an International Pilot Project of MAB in 1989. In recognition of its international significance, the Changbai Mt. Forest Ecosystem Research Station was nominated as an International Research Station by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1989. This station has already become a major research center for biodiversity and management of temperate forest ecosystem and reserve management in China.

    As to research projects operated in this station they can be classified as following groups:

    4.2.1 survey of baseline on biodiversity and environment.

    In first three years (1979-1982), about 70 scientists concentrated on the survey of baseline on animals, plants, microorganisms, meteorology, hydrology, soil etc. Then a series of books and papers had been published. they have provided a base for understanding biodiversity at species and ecosystem level.

    4.2.2 Monitoring changes of biodiversity and environment.

    From 1980 to 1981, 7 permanent plots with size 1 ha or 0.25 ha, and many small plots with 1m2 for ground cover and 4 or 9 m2 for undergrowth in every plot in different types of vegetation were set along vertical zonations. Since then, the traditional methods recording and monitoring species changes have been used.

    As to animals, sampling and other kinds of approaches have been used for monitoring the changes of species density. At the same time, we set 6 meteorological stations in plots and on opened area to collect the meteorological data continuously.

    We have started to establish GIS of Changbai Mt. BR since 1988. Through this system, all of information on this reserve, including topography, vegetation, land use, hydrological maps and potential distribution maps of several endangered both plant and animal species have been stored in computers through ARC/INFO software. We have also developed a approach to link models with GIS to predict the landscape changes of Korean pine/broad-leaved species forest.

    4.2.3 Reintroducing endangered species.

    Panax ginsen C.A.M. is an important medical plant, which has widely been used by Chinese for a long time. Because this species have been heavily collected. it has already became an endangered species and almost disappeared. In 189, we developed a research project to reintroduce it into Korean pine/broad-leafed species forest. Through experiments, we are going to examine ecological conditions essential for Gensengs growth and grow them under canopy of natural woods.

    4.2.4 Breeding of endangered animals.

An endangered animal Roe Deer has been chose as example for breeding, and then reintroduced into natural forest to increase its population. Changbai Mt. BR and surrounding area will be one of major sites to develop research projects on biodiversity, global change and sustainable development of forestry in China. The Institute of Applied Ecology is going to play key role to carry on these projects. The fund is available already for next five years. It can be predicted that the conservation of biodiversity in this region will be improved soon through joint and continuous efforts of scientists, administrators and local people.





Management Bureau of National Changbai Mt. Natural Reserve,1988, Introduction to Changbai Mt. Natural Reserve.

Zhao Shidong and Zhao Guang. 1989. Management of Changbai Mountain Biosphere Reserve: Current situation, problem and perspectives. Nature and Resources: 27-30.