Fresh water

Learn how Conservation International China is working to protect freshwater ecosystems


Our projects

Protecting wetlands and biodiversity in Poyang Lake Basin

Poyang Lake, the largest freshwater lake in China, is a critical habitat for many migratory birds, fish species and mammals. However, the ecosystem is under threat from human activities and climate change - including degraded wetlands, reduced fish species, and a decrease in the supply and quality of fresh water. Since 2019, Conservation International has started working in Poyang lake on freshwater health and wetlands ecosystem conservation. With pilot projects in Duchang Nature Reserve for Migratory Birds, we partnered with Jiangxi Forestry Bureau to promote the conservation and sustainable development of wetland resources in Poyang Lake and Jiangxi Province.

© Yang Fan

Freshwater Health Index

The Freshwater Health Index is a scientific tool developed by Conservation International (CI) to assess the health status of a river basin, like a doctor’s check for a person. CI and partners have successfully used this tool to deliver health reports for 11 river basins in 11 countries to support sustainable freshwater management decisions.

Building on science and being supported by multiple stakeholder engagement, Conservation International's efforts in protecting wetlands and biodiversity in Poyang Lake Basin demonstrate how government, corporate and civil society can work together on large-scale freshwater ecosystem management and conservation in the central/Lower Yangtze River, China’s most economically and ecologically vital areas.

  • Freshwater Health Index (FHI) assessment for Poyang Lake Basin has been completed, identifying challenges to the Lake's health and prioritizing the next steps for better protection of the wetland ecosystems and sustainable use of wetland natural resources.
  • Demonstration efforts in promoting effective management of wetland protected areas have been made in the Lake Basin, with its pilot in Duchang Migratory Nature Reserve.
  • Awareness of wetland and biodiversity conservation in the Lake Basin has been improved significantly by working with local partners to engage local teenagers and communities in educational activities.

Cl Poyang Lake Freshwater Health and Wetland Conservation Advisory Committee has been established in Nanchang to carry on conservation efforts in the Lake Basin, which includes members from key stakeholders. Dr. Lei Guangchun, Dean of the School of Ecology and Nature Conservation of Beijing Forestry University, serves as the Chairman and Chief Expert of the Advisory Committee.

© Yi Qing
© Yi Qing
In years to come, Conservation International will continue working in maintaing the health of the lake ecosystem, strengthening its ecosystem services for human well-being and conserving key habitats for endangered species.

Promoting sustainable use of small wetlands in Sichuan

Small wetlands play a big role in reducing rural and agricultural pollution. In the past 30 years, there has been a lack of monitoring data on small wetlands in China though the country has achieved fruitful results in protecting large-scale wetlands. Small wetlands are mostly found in rural China and are facing tremendous pressure from rural and agricultural activities. The degrading small wetlands can not only diminish its ecosystem services like providing clean water and regulating local climate, but also lead to environment issues as biodiversity loss and increase of greenhouse gas emission. 

© Kyle Obermann

To tackle these challenges, CI China launched the research project on small wetland conservation in Minjiang River Basin of Sichuan province in 2020, to narrow the knowledge gap on the status quo of small wetlands in China. The comprehensive study on the current situation and challenges for small wetlands will contribute significantly to the conservation, restoration, and sustainable utilization of small wetlands in rural areas of Minjiang River Basin.

100 Village Initiative - empowering local communities for better water stewardship

The Dongjiang River (DJ) Basin flows through the world’s biggest city agglomerations within the Pearl River Delta and runs into the South China Sea. It is the drinking water source for 40 million people in China’s Greater Bay Area, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong SAR. Nearly 80% of Hong Kong’s urban water supply is from DJ. The river’s health is critical to the sustainable development of the region.

© Zeng Qingsong

However, with intensive economic development and urbanization process over past decades, the basin has been facing with evolving challenges including water security, and degradation of natural ecosystem. Conservation International conducted the scientific health check in the river basin from 2018 to 2019 by using Freshwater Health Index which shows that pollution is the largest threat to water security in the region. As wastewater in the rural areas is released into the environment without sufficient treatment, causing degradation of freshwater habitats and threatening water supply for the region. In addition, less developed rural communities in upper reaches are facing with a dilemma between water source protection and livelihood development opportunities that may have negative impact on the environment like fish farming, cage aquaculture and pig farming at scale. 


© liu xinzhong

To address those challenges, Conservation International has launched a water stewardship initiative since 2019 to test practical and scalable solutions for water governance in the region by integrating technology on “green-gray infrastructure” and human wisdom from local traditional knowledge for nature conservation and community engagement.

 Till now, two pilots have been successfully tested, and the overall goal is to promote the solution across 100 villages in the basin, thus being known as “100 Village Initiative”. The pilot success shows that the smart solution to rural sewage treatment helps to improve water environment significantly and bring direct multi-benefits to local communities, thus increasing biodiversity in the region and the resilience of local communities against climate change. As the natural environment being improved significantly, the two pilot rural communities have been revitalized through nature-based livelihood development in hosting eco-tourism, rural lifestyle exploration and nature education activities.  

VIDEO: FHI Dongjiang River Basin assessment

VIDEO: Dongjiang River