Due to climate change we are facing major challenges regarding nature and biodiversity conservation. While wildlife populations are supposed to be resilient to shocks in their ecosystems, catastrophic events such as wild fires, heat waves and major storms are happening on such large scales and so frequently that many species can’t recover according to scientific observation. It is a moment for action and rising awareness.
This moment selected by the Chinese authorities to launch a new major initiative for dialogue and exchange of knowledge and know-how on nature conservation and protected areas, the 1st World Forum in Shenzhen. The event presented China's new protected areas governance system, the experience of managing protected areas internationally, and efforts to protect biodiversity and raise awareness of nature conservation through emblematic examples of protected areas. Among them UNESCO Global Geoparks were specially mentioned and presented.
The first World Forum on Nature Conservation took place from October 30 to November 1 in Shenzhen, China. National delegations from 10 countries with developed protected area management systems (China, USA, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Austria, Egypt, etc.), chairs and representatives of international organizations (IUCN, UN Environment, GGN, WWF, ICSU, etc) participated in this important event. The Global Geoparks Network was invited to present its philosophy, practices, results and contribution in nature Conservation.
Li Chunliang, Vice Administrator of the National Forest and Grassland Administration and Professor N. Zouros GGN President awarding plaques to new UNESCO Global Geoparks
Prof. Nikolaos Zouros, President of the Global Geoparks Network, presented the objectives of the UNESCO Global Geopark Program and referred to the actions of the Geoparks to protect and promote the natural environment and natural and cultural heritage, the interdependence between geo-diversity and biodiversity. He cited specific successful examples of the protection, enhancement and effective management of geological monuments and geological heritage sites.
N. Zouros made a special reference to the history of the Geopark concept and the contribution of the pioneers in establishment of the Global Geoparks Network
Nine thematic symposia were organized as part of the 1st World Forum with the participation of high profile administrators, scientists and academicians:
• The system of protected areas and land management policy in China
• Management and ecological restoration of wildlife habitats
• Experience leisure in protected areas and eco-friendly products
• Environmental education and social participation
• Legislation, management regulations and a system of management agencies for protected areas.
• Monitoring and evaluating the results of nature conservation management plans.
• Community participation in protected natural areas
• International cooperation and progress in the management of protected areas
• Urban development and protected areas
At the session regarding community participation in protected areas, Ka Ming Yeung the Director of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark presented the experience sharing of community participation in Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark.
In a special ceremony at the conference, Li Chunliang, Vice Administrator of the National Forest and Grassland Administration and Professor N. Zouros GGN President, awarded special plaques to the two areas recognized in 2019 as UNESCO World Geoparks.
Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in China
Since the establishment in 1956 of its first nature protected area China now owns 10 pilot national parks, 474 state nature protected areas and 244 state scenic sites. Moreover, China also has the greatest number of the UNESCO Global Geoparks (39) and World Natural Heritage sites (14) and World Natural and Cultural Heritage sites (4).
China has established more than 11,800 protected areas covering 18 percent of its land area and 4.6 percent of its sea area, aiming to build the world's most expansive mechanism for the management of protected areas by 2025.
Under the plan for the new mechanism, the country's protected areas are divided into three categories - national parks, nature parks and nature protected areas, announced by Li Chunliang, deputy Administrator of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration. Ten pilot programs at national parks, representing China's most typical natural systems, will conclude by the end of 2020. The pilot parks include Giant Panda National Park, Three-River-Source National Park, and Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park.
The nature protected areas will be those regions that harbour endangered wildlife or have special significance to the protection of natural relics. Currently, China's nature protected areas - including 35 million hectares of natural forests and 20 million hectares of wetlands - are safeguarding 85 percent of the country's total wildlife and 65 percent of its vascular plants.
Nature parks, where the mechanism is being officially unveiled for the first time, will play a role in providing more interaction between nature and humans, including tourism, scientific studies and public education. In June, the State Council unveiled a guideline to establish the mechanism of nature protected areas with national parks as a major component, in an effort to push forward sustainable development.
"China has special conditions, and there's no model that we could just copy from overseas," Li said at the opening ceremony of the first World Forum on Nature Conservation that kicked off in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Wednesday. "We need to find our own way to build a mechanism based on our own conditions. "As one of the countries containing the greatest biodiversity of resources in the world, China has made constant efforts to protect them," he said.
According to Li, China will draft a law focused on protected areas to guarantee the implementation of the mechanism and build a database and surveillance platform, encouraging more cross-border cooperation on protected areas and participation from the public. "Protected natural areas play an important role in safeguarding the nation's ecological safety, protecting its biodiversity, preserving its natural heritage and improving the ecological environment."
Exhibition on Protected Areas in China
Parallel to the Forum an Exhibition was organized to present the progress and achievements in nature conservation in China. Among the other Protected areas, UNESCO Global Geoparks were presented.
Presentation of the Chinese UNESCO Global Geoparks in Shenzhen