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2 January 2002
ANNEX D. ANALYSIS OF THREATS TO WETLAND BIODIVERSITY AND THEIR ROOT CAUSES
THREATS FACING WETLANDS IN ASIA
The Asia Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy 2001-2005 recognizes the major threats to wetlands in this region, identified in Scott & Poole (1989): 85% of important wetlands were under some form of threat and 50% were reported to be under moderate to severe threat.
More recent official information is available from the Ramsar Convention database (up to December 1995): in Asia, 27 Ramsar sites had suffered ecological change as a result of agricultural impacts, 26 due to water regulation, 22 due to habitat effects, 18 due to faunal effects and 18 due to pollution. In Eastern Europe (including the whole of Russia for administrative purposes), the corresponding figures are: 33 sites suffered habitat impacts, 29 sites agricultural impacts, 25 sites pollution, 20 sites waste disposal impacts and 20 sites water regulation impacts (Frazier 1996). Given that Ramsar sites usually enjoy some form of national protection, and represent the member countries most important wetlands, these statistics provide an indication of the scale of pressures on wetlands as a whole.
Information on the threats affecting wetlands at the national level is described in the relevant national biodiversity assessments and national biodiversity strategies and action plans.
THREATS FACING MIGRATORY WATERBIRDS IN ASIA
The Asia Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy 2001-2005 notes that some 40 species of migratory waterbirds in the Asia Pacific region are globally threatened. It describes five categories of threat directly affecting migratory waterbirds in the region: loss of habitat, degradation of habitat, invasive species impacts, harvesting of waterbirds, and effects of climate change. Many of these threats refer to impacts on the wetland habitats that support these species at different stages of their migration cycles.
THREATS FACING THE SIBERIAN CRANE
The CMS MoU Concerning Conservation Measures for the Siberian Crane acknowledges that: hunting and loss of wetlands, particularly in Southern Asia, are thought to have been responsible for the decline in number of Siberian Cranes. While hunting has been identified as one of the main causes of the decline of the western and central populations of the Siberian Crane, in reality a whole array of threats are faced by both these populations and the larger eastern population. The diversity of threats is apparent from the national threat analysis tables (see below). The IUCN/SSC Status Review and Conservation Action Plan (Meine & Archibald, 1996) also lists a range of threats to the Siberian Crane, including hunting, loss and degradation of wetland habitats, oil exploration impacts and dam construction. Different threats, however, have more or less significance at different stages of the life cycle, and on breeding, staging and wintering sites. In general, hunting is the most severe threat for the Western population, while habitat degradation is the greatest threat for the Eastern population. Fortunately, human population pressures are least on the breeding grounds, where the Siberian Crane needs the most freedom from disturbance, but here oil exploration has greatest potential for future impact.
INTRODUCTION TO THE NATIONAL THREAT ANALYSIS TABLES
The root causes underlying the above threats are described in the main text, and it is these root causes that the project will seek to address. The following tables summarise the root causes for broad categories of threat affecting the project sites in each of the four participating countries. The activities required to mitigate the threats are listed against each root cause, identifying the sites concerned.
National Socio-Economic Context
The high rural population density at the project sites in NE China and the central Yangtze valley (national average of 681.9/km2, 1995) and their dependence on subsistence agriculture and wetland resources exert pressure on wetland ecosystems and biodiversity. Average annual income at the NE China sites is only US$125-150 per capita, largely derived from crops, aquaculture and fishing, while annual revenue from reed collection at these sites totals almost US$3 million. Over 8.6 million people live in Poyang Lake Basin (PLB) (2,284,300 ha), including three cities. PLB contributes significantly to the economic production of Jiangxi Province (28.2%), including agricultural production (33.3%) and aquaculture (431,800 tonnes in 1997).
In Iran, the project is focusing on wetlands in the South Caspian lowlands, in the provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran. This narrow coastal plain is used intensively for agriculture, including large areas of rice fields, but still retains some significant wetlands and is an outstanding area for wintering waterfowl. The rural population density is relatively high (139/km2, 1995) and rising at 1.7% per annum (1999). Coastal urban development is placing pressure on both natural wetlands and agricultural land, and human pressures are causing declines in coastal fisheries, stocks of wintering waterfowl and other wetland resources. Local people in many areas undertake traditional forms of waterfowl trapping or shooting in winter to supplement their incomes.
The project sites in Kazakhstan include some of the major freshwater lake systems in the north of the country. They are quite remote, and human pressures are relatively low. The economy in northern Kazakhstan is based on agriculture, which developed mainly within the last 40-50 years for intensive grain production. After the collapse of the USSR, such large-scale grain production was no longer supported and cultivated areas have dramatically decreased. Many farming villages and cattle-breeding complexes were abandoned, and human pressure on natural wetlands has decreased. Harvesting of wetland resources, primarily waterfowl, has been dramatically reduced. The present time is, therefore, a window of opportunity for conservation efforts.
In Russia, the project sites are located in Western and Eastern Siberia. The breeding grounds in the Arctic and boreal taiga zones are remote and have low human populations. The main economic activities of local populations in these areas are fishing, hunting, and collection of berries and mushrooms and reindeer husbandry. The three sites in Tyumen Oblast (Western Siberia), however, lie in the most important oil and gas regions in the Russian Federation (more than 95% of Russia gas and 80% of oil production), where continued exploration and development is an economic priority. Other economic interests include mining and forestry.
The staging areas in the south of Western Siberia are located in the forest-steppe zone, characterised by its rich black soil. This region was a major agricultural area before the collapse of the former USSR, with intensive sheep and cattle grazing stations and cereal production. As in Kazakhstan, agriculture here has undergone dramatic decline in recent years, creating a window of opportunity for conservation. Any future upturn in the agricultural sector will increase pressure on wetland resources in this region, which are very sensitive to drainage owing to their position at the head of a major drainage basin. Recent changes in land tenure (from state and collective to private farms) have been accompanied by increasing conflicts due to crop damage by waterbirds.
National Wetlands Policies, Strategies & Plans
The four participating countries have taken significant steps towards addressing the threats and underlying causes that are described in this Annex. These include the following major policies, strategies and plans, although it should be noted that this summary is not exhaustive.
All four participating countries have completed national biodiversity strategy and action plans (NBSAPs) that highlight the importance of the conservation of wetlands and migratory waterbirds. These plans are integrated into national policies and legislation to varying degrees.
China has increasingly recognized the importance of conserving its nationally and globally significant wetland biodiversity. In 1994, China approved its national Agenda 21 and launched the National Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan (BCAP). The BCAP highlights four objectives with particular relevance to wetlands conservation:
the need for an improved and expanded protected area system;
improved personnel training;
integration of biodiversity conservation into sustainable development planning; and
establishment of nationwide information networks and monitoring systems.
In addition, the BCAP commits China to establishing regional economic demonstration models for coordinating biodiversity conservation and sustainable utilization and establishing demonstration sites in nature reserves.
China has a strong national legal and policy framework for wetland conservation, including the State Environmental Protection Agency Notice on Strengthening Wetland Conservation (1994) and the National Wetland Conservation Action Plan (NWCAP), published in 2000 and implemented through official notification by SFA. The government has established a national Wetlands Coordinating Committee involving 17 Ministries and other government agencies. The NWCAP includes a government commitment to:
specific demonstrations of sustainable use and better protection at its important wetland sites;
increasing the number of designated Ramsar sites; and
a reform of government policies relating to wetland protection.
Many wetlands and most of the globally significant areas within China are represented in a