Why these species?
Southern China hosts more than 200 threatened tree species. These include many species of camellia (relatives of tea), fir, magnolia, oak and rhododendron found nowhere else in the world. Because of extensive habitat loss in the 20th century, many species now exist only in small patches of forest, which have since been designated as nature reserves.
Although nature reserves protect the remaining forest habitat, this may not be enough to guarantee the long-term survival of highly threatened species. Some species are still targeted by illegal logging, while others are unable to recruit news trees to their populations, with young seedlings killed by cattle grazing, invasive species or visiting tourists. Without hands-on management to reduce these threats, many threatened species are likely to dwindle in number, and decline towards extinction.
The actions carried out by nature reserve managers and rangers will therefore play a key role in the long-term conservation of China’s threatened tree species. However many of these rangers have never had the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skillsets needed to deliver effective tree conservation.
What did we do about it?
Our strategy in southern China was to provide nature reserve managers with the skills and support they need to protect and restore threatened tree species. Beyond providing initial training, we mentored and supervised rangers to take action on the ground, and helped them to develop long-term partnerships with leading Chinese experts in tree conservation. With our partner, BRC (Guangxi Biodiversity Research and Conservation Association), we carried out the following actions:
- Training nature reserve managers and rangers, helping them to gain practical skills in tree conservation, including patrolling, habitat management and tree-planting.
- Providing reserve managers with small grants and intensive supervision to implement conservation actions after training.
- Supporting reserves to apply for increased funding for tree species conservation, helping to ensure the work can continue long-term.
- Helping reserve managers and technical experts to share learning and experience, through an online forum and from face to face exchange visits
Our work allowed nature reserve managers from across China to improve conservation practice. Managers from more than 90 different nature reserves – In Fujian, Guangxi, Sichuan and Yunnan – have gained new skills in tree conservation, through six annual training courses completed from 2012-17.
As a result of this training, and the follow-on mentoring we are providing, reserves are increasingly applying what they have learned on the ground. Rangers are adopting new conservation action plans, initiating new anti-logging patrols, carrying out better monitoring and adopting new protocols for growing and planting out threatened trees. Through our support, new or more effective conservation actions have been put in place for 22 different tree species.
For a few key species, we are starting to see some especially impressive results. For example, thanks to training and long-term mentoring given to two reserves in north Guangxi, threats from logging, cattle-grazing and unregulated tourism for the Critically Endangered Yuanbaoshan fir and the Endangered Ziyuan fir are now at an all-time low. Reserve staff have established local nurseries, and are now actively planting fir seedlings back into the reserve. These first steps, led by the local rangers, are helping to put two threatened fir species onto the road of recovery.
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