Yunnan is China’s most diverse province, biologically as well as culturally, the province contains snow-capped mountains and true tropical environments, thus supporting an unusually full spectrum of species and vegetation types.
Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with high elevations in the northwest and low elevations in the southeast. Most of the population lives in the eastern part of the province. In the west, the altitude can vary from the mountain peaks to river valleys by as much as 3,000 metres (9,800 ft). Yunnan is rich in natural resources and has the largest diversity of plant life in China. Of the approximately 30,000 species of higher plants in China, Yunnan has perhaps 17,000 or more. Yunnan’s reserves of aluminium, lead, zinc and tin are the largest in China, and there are also major reserves of copper and nickel. Yunnan is famed as “Kingdom of Plants”, “Kingdom of Animals” and ” Kingdom of Non－ferrous Metals”.
The terrestrial ecological system in Yunnan includes almost all the ecosystem types on the earth, mainly including forests, shrubs, meadows, wetland and deserts. The aquatic ecosystem in Yunnan includes river ecosystem and lake ecosystem. Yunnan’s six major water systems, namely Jinsha River, Lancang River, Nujiang River, Irrawaddy or, officially, Ayeyarwady River, Yuanjiang River and Nanpan River, constitute the basic framework of Yunnan’s freshwater ecosystem. The Yunnan plateau lakes represented by Dianchi lake, Erhai lake, Fuxian lake, Yilong lake and Lugu lake reflect some particularity of China’s freshwater ecosystem.
Diversity of Species
Yunnan has a vast territory with diversified and unique nature resources. There are more than 18 000 high plant species (51.6% of China’s total) and 1836 vertebrate species (54.8% of China’s total) living in Yunnan on a land area of 39.4 × 104km2, i.e., only 4.1% of China’s total. Among 15000 seed plants found in Yunnan there are 151 rare and endangered plant species (42.6% of China’s protected plants). Out of 335 China priority protected wild animals, Yunnan has 243 species, accounting for 72.5% of China’s total, 15% of which are species endemic to Yunnan.
There are 164 species of wildlife under national key protection in Yunnan province, accounting for 63.8% of the species under national key protection. There are 44 species of Class I protected animals and 119 species of Class II protected animals. 158 species of national key protected wild plants, accounting for 42.6% of the national key protected wild plants. Among them, there are 4 species of protected plants in first category and 56 species of protected plants in the second category, ranking first in the country.
Endemic Element to Yunnan
Yunnan Province is also one of the regions with the most endemic genera in China. Yunnan Province has 180 endemic genera of angiosperms in China, of which about 20 are endemic to Yunnan Province, such as Manglietiastrum sinicum of Magnoliaceae (木兰科的华盖木) and Cyphotheca montana of Melastomataceae (野牡丹科的药囊花). Among 399 species of fish in Yunnan, 382 species are native to Yunnan.
Current Status and Conservation
However, Yunnan’s biodiversity is faced with the menace of excessive exploitation of resources and changes in environmental conditions caused by the activities of an expanding human population. Fortunately, local government has paid great attention to this vital course, and the Yunnan Province Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (2012–2030) proposed to make out the conservation of Yunnan’s biodiversity.
Edited by Brittany/田