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wetland in China, birds, biodiversity
In north-east China, in Kangping, a wetland area degraded by human activities is slowly coming back to life thanks to an ambitious ecological restoration program supported by AFD. A success for Franco-Chinese cooperation for biodiversity protection.

Remember them because AFD does not list bird names every day: Baer's Pochard, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Oriental stork, Siberian crane, White-naped Crane, Swan goose… There is a good reason for this: these birds, all facing the threat of extinction, are the heroes of an ecomuseum, which was officially opened on 22 June in Kangping, in the Chinese province of Liaoning.

The objective of this museum is to explain the interest of preserving the 2,500 hectares of the Kangping wetland area. There is a lake there, the Wolong, which is home to rich biodiversity and has long been used as a stopover for tens of thousands of birds in the migration corridor between East Asia and Australia.

In China, the country’s 53.6 million ha of wetlands hold no less than 82% of national freshwater resources. This ecosystem in Kangping, in the north-east of the country, also plays an essential ecological role, by curbing the advance of deserts from Inner Mongolia.

However, in recent years it has suffered from an intensive exploitation of its resources to irrigate neighboring fields and supply drinking water to populations. These activities have led to a partial dewatering, the depletion of sources of food and, logically, to the virtual disappearance of migratory birds from the area – in 2014, there were only a few hundred a day.

Fortunately, a restoration program for this vast wetland area was launched in 2014 thanks to a EUR 15m loan from AFD to the Kangping local authorities. The objective: promote again the development of a rich biodiversity combined with the creation of natural habitats for aquatic and terrestrial species.

The project has enabled the construction of a 7.8 km-long dyke equipped with watergates, as well as several stations allowing a differentiated management of water resources depending on the various functions of the lake – habitat for avifauna, supply for farmers and populations. In addition to infrastructure, technical assistance has been provided to the local committee responsible for the lake for the close management of water levels, as well as for the monitoring of migratory bird populations. Small islands adapted to certain bird species have been created.

The local authorities wanted to take this opportunity to promote “green” tourism and sensitize populations to environmental issues. Walking trails (platforms) have been created, as well as two avifauna observation towers and an ecomuseum giving details of the history of this restoration, the interest of this wetland area and the remarkable species populating Lake Wolong and its surroundings.

It’s the first project in the field of biodiversity that AFD has supported in China. And we can say that it’s a success in terms of ecological restoration”, points out Nicolas Rossin, head of AFD’s project team. Indeed, in four years, Lake Wolong has once again become a major habitat area for migratory birds from the East Asia-Australia corridor: over 100,000 birds a day were counted there at the height of the migratory season in 2018. It is estimated that the lake hosts almost 90% of the world's Siberian crane population, a critically endangered species, during their migratory stopover, which demonstrates the importance of the area. 
This project is also exemplary of Franco-Chinese cooperation on environmental protection”, adds Enmin Zhang, project officer at AFD’s Beijing agency. In this Franco-Chinese Year of the Environment, launched by the French and Chinese Ministers of the Environment in November 2018, and a year before the COP of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held in China in 2020, the inauguration of the ecomuseum and the visit of the wetland area provided the opportunity to highlight French expertise and the work conducted by the French consultants Biotope, Phytorestore, La Tour du Valat and Arte Charpentier.

Baer's Pochard, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Oriental stork, Siberian crane, White-naped Crane, Swan goose… Remember these bird names. One day they will perhaps no longer be on the list of endangered species. If so, the Kangping wetland area will have made a contribution to this.