From Earth Common Journal VOL. 3 NO. 1
Conserving China's Biodiversity
There are five major agencies within China’s government overseeing environmental protection, the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), the State Forestry Administration (SFA), the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the Ministry of Construction (MOC), and the State Oceans Administration (SOA). The National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) was established in 1988, but was subsequently changed to the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) in 1998. It is responsible for all issues concerning environmental protection and has a department of nature conservation, along with a division of nature reserves and species management (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 301). SEPA has ministerial status (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 301).
The State Forestry Administration (SFA) is sub-ministerial and is primarily responsible for 75% of China’s nature reserves, as well as the implementation of legislation designed to protect the environment (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 301). The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) directs about 3% of protected areas and has a small office for endangered and threatened species, which includes aquatic species (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 301). The Ministry of Construction (MOC) oversees parks recognized as UNESCO heritage sites (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 301), of which 21 have been designated (Liu et al., 2003, p. 1240), as well as regulating the Chinese zoo system (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 302). The State Oceans Administration (SOA) is responsible for all endangered species two hundred miles off the coast of China, as well as a few marine protected areas (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 302).
As of 2006, there were approximately two thousand Environmental Non- Governmental Organizations (ENGOs). Some of the more active are well-known international organizations such as Greenpeace, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 305 - 306). Friends of Nature (FON) was the first ENGO established in China, it is mainly focused on education of environmental issues and is heavily relied upon by the Chinese press for information regarding environmental problems (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 305). Founded in 1995, Beijing-based Wetlands International is an organization which concentrates its efforts on threats to wetlands from economic development, pollution, and climate change (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 304). And lastly, the Desert Control Volunteers Network was established to change attitudes about desertification by educating China’s urban population about special landforms, plants, and animals found in desert regions (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 306).
China is a very unique and important country when it comes to biodiversity. It not only has a large range of species, but also possesses a very large endemic population. One of the main concerns regarding conservation of biodiversity in China is balancing environmental concerns with growing cultural and economic demands (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 295). Initially, the Chinese were not concerned with environmental protection, but natural disasters and an increasing environmentalist movement have forced governments into action. With the implementation of more than 2500 nature reserves and the creation of several governmental agencies, the Chinese are on the right path to the conservation of its biodiversity.
Two of the positive signs are the increase in the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) population (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 316) and forest coverage has increased from 8.6% in 1949 to 18.2% in 2008 (Ministry of Environmental Protection, 2008, p. 5). As well, people from around the globe have begun to realize the importance of preserving China’s forests and wildlife, as multiple ENGOs have been formed with a focus on preserving China’s forests and the species that inhabit them.
With the good comes the bad. The real downfall with China’s approach to conservation is that they are poorly educated in the biological sciences. The official study of ecology has only been around in China for the better part of two decades (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 310). Because of this, we see inadequate funding from the federal government towards ecological pursuits, leading to inadequate knowledge and training amongst the people employed at nature reserves. As well, the government still seems to be more concerned with development than it does with protecting the environment (McBeath & McBeath, 2006, p. 317).
China is on the right track to preserving their biodiversity, and it is still considered a developing nation. As mentioned above, it is still new at the practice of environmental protection. With increased education from the Western world, along with increased funding from its own federal government, China has the potential to become an international model for environmental protection.
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