Ecological governance of Yellow River basin

By ZHANG JIE and CAI WEIXI / 08-18-2022 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

An aerial view of green ecological corridors along the Yellow River bank in Ji’nan, Shandong Province Photo: CFP

DONGYING—On July 26 and 27, a seminar on the ecological protection and governance of the Yellow River delta was held in Dongying, Shandong Province. 
Integrated ecosystems 
The governance of the Yellow River basin should adhere to the concept of coordinating multiple ecological types. Yin Weilun, a professor from Beijing Forestry University, noted that to strengthen the ecological protection of the whole basin, it is necessary to rely primarily on natural restoration in general, reduce human interference, and gradually improve the local microclimate. The upper reaches need to focus on vegetation construction in Sanjiangyuan [sources of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Lancang rivers], the Qilian Mountains, and the Gannan water conservation area in the upper reaches of the Yellow River, carrying out a batch of major ecological protection, restoration, and construction projects to elevate the water conservation capacity. The middle reaches should highlight water and soil conservation and pollution control. The lower reaches require efforts in the protection of wetlands and the treatment of saline-alkali land. 
An Lizhe, president of Beijing Forestry University, said that forest conservation in the Yellow River basin should be promoted by increasing forest vegetation, restoring degraded forests, improving forests ability to regulate water and sediment, and promoting the high-value development of forest resources, forging a distinctive road of high-quality and balanced development for the basin. 
At present, the ecology of the Yellow River delta is still fragile, facing prominent water resource constraints and water ecological problems. Liu Zhifu, vice chairman of the Shandong Federation of Social Sciences, called for greater efforts in innovating the ecological protection and governance model. He suggested intensifying research on major ecological environment issues in the Yellow River basin, such as biodiversity protection, wetland restoration, the building of urban wetlands, and the prevention and control of pollution, thereby furthering research on key scientific and technological problems and path research, and providing theoretical support for building a benchmark of governing the deltas of great rivers. 
Yu Kongjian, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape at Peking University, proposed taking the service of integrated ecosystems as the goal, combining traditional wisdom with modern science and technology, prioritizing the planning and building of ecological infrastructure, coordinating the spatial patterns of cities and nature, and solving ecological environmental problems systematically and comprehensively. 
As for the evolutionary characteristics of the Yellow River delta’s spatial pattern, Gao Jixi, director of the Satellite Application Center for Ecology and Environment at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, suggested returning the delta to nature and relying on the power of nature to protect and restore the ecosystem. Efforts are needed to scientifically coordinate the three spatial patterns of ecology, cities and towns, and agriculture. It is advisable to strictly protect ecological space, establish a sound system for protecting ecological space, and strengthen comprehensive monitoring and supervision capabilities for ecological protection. 
National parks 
In recent years, facing the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental pollution, China has placed the construction of ecological civilization in a prominent position in national work and made a series of major strategic deployments to continuously advance ecological environmental protection. Establishing a national park system is an instrumental measure to promote ecological progress in the new era. 
National parks are an important window to present new civilizational forms. Zhang Yujun, a professor from the School of Landscape Architecture at Beijing Forestry University, believes that the primary function of national parks is to protect the authenticity and integrity of important natural ecosystems. National parks should put ecological protection first, represent the nation, and pursue public benefits. 
Yang Rui, director of the Institute of National Parks at Tsinghua University, said that as we adopt the bottom line thinking of ecological protection first and strictest protection, we should also grasp a dialectical relationship within. Putting ecological protection first does not mean that it is the sole aim. The strictest protection does not mean to create depopulated zones. He suggested building a national park governance system with Chinese characteristics, based on national conditions and learning experience and lessons from the construction practice of national parks of other countries. 
Establishing national parks is also an important way to protect and raise biodiversity. According to Wang Renqing, deputy director of the Institute of Yellow River National Strategies at Shandong University, the Yellow River delta and its connected estuary wetland ecosystem, where land and sea integrate, possess unique and rich biodiversity, and are globally important migratory routes and habitats for birds. The Yellow River Estuary National Park should be constructed based on wetland vegetation to carry out vegetation protection and investigate the basis of vegetation, conducting long-term positioning, observation, and research on vegetation and related ecosystems. 
Su Yang, a research fellow with the Development Research Center of the State Council, proposed that building the Yellow River Estuary National Park should prioritize the protection of “river-land-shoal-sea” complex ecosystems, warm temperate wetland ecosystems, the “spawning ground, feeding ground, wintering ground, and migratory pathway of birds and marine life in the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea,” and hydrological landscapes.