Chinese cities committed to urban biodiversity

Chinese cities committed to urban biodiversity

Green Lake Park in Kunming city, southwest China's Yunnan province. [People's Daily/Photo]

May 22nd is the International Day for Biological Diversity, themed "Be Part of the Plan." This theme highlights the importance of involving all stakeholders to protect and conserve biodiversity, promoting harmonious coexistence between humans and various biological species in urban environments.

"In our daily lives, well-maintained parks and wetlands can become ideal habitats for biological 'neighbors,'" said Li Weiwei, a senior engineer at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Butterflies, dragonflies, birds, and fish are among the most common wildlife encountered. According to Fan Cunxiang, a senior engineer at the Haizhu Wetland Protection and Management Office in Guangzhou city, species that are more active during the day and align with humans' routines are relatively common. In contrast, nocturnal species like owls and frogs are less frequently seen.

Butterflies and dragonflies, with their brief life cycles and sensitivity to environmental changes, serve as effective indicators of ecosystem health. In 2023, Beijing's central areas recorded 24 species of butterflies and 29 species of dragonflies, representing around 24% and 36% of the city's total recorded species, respectively.

Li noted that by implementing wildlife protection laws and raising citizen knowledge and behavior, some birds, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles can better adapt to urban life.

"The wildlife living in Kunming's Green Lake Park has adapted to the lights and horns in the city well and has become a genuine 'urban resident,'" Li added.

Elaborate "squirrel homes" on tree trunks, palm-sized "hedgehog homes" in soil mounds, and "earthworm towers" standing in the test fields… At Beijing 101 Middle School, through creating a biodiversity conservation community, various wild animals and plants have naturally integrated into the campus environment.

On May 22nd, students participated in microbiological modeling and animal specimen preparation under the guidance of professional teachers. They got to know the typical animals and plants on campus and learned about different ecosystems, such as forests and wetlands.

Beijing has established biodiversity conservation communities in urban areas, including micro-wetlands, shrub stations, and animal drinking stations that provide natural or near-natural habitats for wildlife.

"According to artificial surveys and infrared camera monitoring results, hedgehogs have settled in 'hedgehog homes,' artificial bird nests have welcomed mandarin ducks and other birds, and animal drinking stations have monitored various birds such as buntings, yellow-throated buntings, and doves coming to drink and bathe," said Wang Da'an, assistant researcher at the Institute of Ecological Protection and Restoration, Chinese Academy of Forestry Sciences.

In recent years, many cities have intensified efforts to enhance their ecological environments by promoting afforestation and ecological restoration. As a result, more animals are appearing in urban areas.

"Common birds in Green Lake Park include black-winged stilts, egrets, kingfishers, and yellow-buttocked bulbuls. In order to provide them with a better place to rest, live, and breed, we built 'Bird Island'," said Guo Hongwei, director of the park.

"Bird Island" is a biodiversity intelligent monitoring pilot site jointly established by Li Weiwei and her team with the government, parks, and other parties.

The island is equivalent to a small ecosystem: Irises are planted on the island are evergreen, and their slender leaves provide a resting place for birds. The "underwater forest," composed of submerged plants, emergent plants and algae, becomes a habitat for fish to eat, live and play. And a chamber made of hollow bricks and special materials has been built for them to breed.

"Although some fish will be eaten by the island's birds, the fish produce even more offspring, thereby sustaining the urban wetland ecosystem's food chain," Li explained.

"Besides busy workplaces, there should be places in the city where people can wander in nature, accompanied by flowers, trees, fish, birds, frogs, and insects, and even contact with natural creatures," said Li, whose words are followed by more examples:

Architects can design bird-friendly buildings to facilitate the nesting of animals such as barn swallows; and landscape planners can keep wildflower belts, gentle slopes, and stone and twig piles that provide ideal habitats for wild creatures.

Biodiversity conservation concerns everyone and requires more public participation. "From restoring a native plant species to caring a small blade of grass, from reducing the use of disposable products to increasing the use of renewable and recyclable materials, there are many things we can do," said Fan.

Source: Xinhua; trans-editing by Guo Yao