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Nature’s Comeback: How Dongying City is Restoring the Yellow River Delta’s Ecology.

ChinaNature's Comeback: How Dongying City is Restoring the Yellow River Delta's Ecology.

Dongying is a city located in the east of China’s Shandong Province. It is an important location as the Yellow River flows into the Bohai Sea in this city. The deposits of large amounts of sand and mud from the river form the Yellow River Delta, which is a unique ecosystem and a significant wetlands area. This delta generates extensive wetlands and is China’s most complete and youngest wetlands ecosystem in the warm temperate zone.

Ecological improvements have been witnessed in the Yellow River Delta of Dongying city, thanks to various measures to improve wetland restoration and protection. Wetlands are an essential natural resource, providing several ecological benefits such as water purification, carbon sequestration, flood control, and habitats for wildlife. Therefore, the measures implemented to improve wetland restoration and protection in Dongying are critical for preserving this unique ecosystem’s ecological balance.

The ecological improvements in Dongying’s Yellow River Delta are not only significant for the city but also for the entire region. Wetlands play a crucial role in mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, they also provide valuable economic benefits by supporting fisheries, tourism, and agriculture. Therefore, the ecological improvements in Dongying’s Yellow River Delta are essential not only for the preservation of this ecosystem but also for the economic benefits they provide.

The ecological improvements in Dongying’s Yellow River Delta are the result of various measures implemented to improve wetland restoration and protection. These improvements are essential not only for the preservation of this unique ecosystem’s ecological balance but also for the economic benefits they provide. Wetlands are a crucial natural resource that provides several ecological benefits, and their preservation is crucial for mitigating climate change and supporting economic development.

The wetlands in Dongying were threatened many years ago due to several factors such as less water from the river, seawater intrusion, and other factors. This situation prompted the establishment of the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve in 1992 to protect the wetlands ecosystem of the river’s estuary.

To ensure the preservation of the wetlands ecosystem, Dongying has adopted a comprehensive wetlands restoration model that prioritizes protecting the nature reserve and letting nature restore itself. The city has launched 17 wetlands restoration projects with a total investment of 1.36 billion yuan ($190 million) for the nature reserve, connecting 241 kilometers of water channels.

Furthermore, the city has intensified eco-compensation efforts by diverting water from the Yellow River to the nature reserve. Over the past three years, Dongying has transferred 469 million cubic meters of water to the nature reserve, which has alleviated soil salinization and recovered the ecological functions of the wetlands.

In 2022, the nature reserve built six additional water gates to ensure that it can divert water from the river throughout the year. According to Wang Lidong, the deputy head of a special working group for wetland restoration projects at the nature reserve, this will help preserve the wetlands ecosystem in the long term.

Unfortunately, the smooth cordgrass has severely encroached on the growing space of Suaeda salsa, which has adapted to alkaline soil at the nature reserve since 2010. This situation was reported by Wang Jinhe, head of Dongying Marine Economic Development Research Institute. This development highlights the ongoing challenges in wetlands restoration and preservation and underscores the need for continued efforts to ensure the protection and preservation of this unique ecosystem.

Wang Jinhe, head of Dongying Marine Economic Development Research Institute, noted that the smooth cordgrass poses a significant threat to other local plants and the stability of the wetlands ecosystem at the nature reserve. This challenge prompted Dongying to launch collaborative efforts with scientific institutions such as the Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2016.

The city has utilized geographic information systems and remote sensing technology to investigate the distribution and intrusion mechanism of the smooth cordgrass in the Yellow River Delta. Field investigations were also launched to aid the understanding of the plant’s behavior. The outcome of this research and investigation led to the development of multiple treatment technologies and management projects.

The management projects carried out have effectively contained the expansion of the smooth cordgrass and restored the biotic population in the intertidal zone. Furthermore, the nature reserve has restored 72,500 mu (4,833 hectares) of wetlands and flat farmlands. It has also recovered 52,000 mu of Suaeda salsa and seagrass beds and added 188 square kilometers of new wetlands, which is a 12.3 percent increase.

As part of its continued effort to protect and preserve the wetlands ecosystem, Dongying built a real-time monitoring network for bird species at the nature reserve last year. The network utilizes the internet, big data, remote sensing, radar, and other information technologies in the nature reserve. This monitoring system will provide insights and data that will aid in the conservation of the bird species and their habitat in the reserve.

Zhao Yajie, the senior engineer of the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve’s management committee, stated that they have developed a 24-hour monitoring system in crucial positions such as the entrances and exits of roads and bird distribution areas. The primary objective of this system is to identify the bird species and count their number, ensuring that they remain undisturbed by human activities. The implementation of this monitoring system has significantly improved the protection and conservation of bird habitats in the nature reserve.

The nature reserve has designated the habitats of several bird species, including Saunders’s gulls, oriental white storks, and cranes, as priority conservation areas. The Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve has seen an impressive increase in the diversity and number of bird species in recent years, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the reserve’s conservation efforts. Currently, there are 371 bird species present in the reserve, which is a significant increase from the 187 species present when it was established. The reserve has become an important breeding, stopover, and wintering ground for birds migrating along the East Asian-Australasian and the West Pacific flyways. Moreover, it is the world’s second-largest breeding place for Saunders’s gulls, an essential breeding ground for oriental white storks, and the world’s second-largest wintering ground for white cranes.

The Dongying municipal committee is currently spearheading efforts to build the Yellow River Estuary National Park. The proposed national park will span 3,523 square kilometers, with 1,371 square kilometers designated for land and 2,152 square kilometers for sea. The goal of this project is to explore new pathways for the protection of the river and delta ecology, which will have significant implications for the conservation of endangered species and ecological systems in the area. The project is part of a broader initiative by the Chinese government to promote environmental protection and sustainable development in the country.

The Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve’s conservation efforts have yielded significant results and have contributed to the protection of several endangered bird species. Through the implementation of a 24-hour monitoring system and the establishment of priority conservation areas, the reserve has become an important ecological hub for birds migrating along critical flyways. The proposed Yellow River Estuary National Park will further enhance these conservation efforts, highlighting the Chinese government’s commitment to promoting sustainable development and environmental protection.

In conclusion, the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve’s efforts have demonstrated the critical role of conservation initiatives in protecting endangered species and ecological systems. Through the implementation of innovative conservation strategies, the reserve has become an important ecological hub for migratory birds in the region. The proposed Yellow River Estuary National Park will further enhance these efforts, ensuring the continued protection of the river and delta ecology for future generations.

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