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The Amur-Heilong Ecoregion Complex Strategic Plan 2021–2026 (Summary)

pub_AHEC_strategic_plan_2021.jpgThe Amur-Heilong is the biggest river in Northeast Asia, and one of the biggest free-flowing rivers of the world. It flows through China, Mongolia and Russia and originates from two sources – one in the north and one
in the south. The northern source is the Onon River in Mongolia and the southern source is the Argun River, which drains the western slope of DaXing’an Mountains in China. With 4.444 kilometer in length the Amur ranks among the ten longest rivers in the world. Its basin covers a total area of more than two million square kilometers and includes ecoregions of planetary importance for biodiversity conservation. WWF calls this unique set of ecoregions the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion Complex (AHEC).

The Amur basin is very rich in biological diversity thanks to the wide diversity of landscapes that encompass 15 terrestrial ecoregions, including- in WWF terms - three Global 200 Ecoregions, namely the East Siberian Taiga, the mixed broadleaf-coniferous forests of the Russian Far East and the Daurian steppe. The basin also has one Global Freshwater Ecoregion: Rivers and wetlands of the Russian Far East. The Russian
Far Eastern temperate forests ecoregion shared by Russia and China is considered as one of the best preserved temperate forest ecosystems and it still has a significant population of Amur (Siberian) tiger, wild ginseng, and other rare animals and plants. The Daurian wetland-steppe ecoregion is shared by all three basin countries and in the face of the large-scale destruction of the world’s grassland habitat, Mongolia’s steppe stands out as one of the best remaining examples of intact temperate grasslands in the world. The southern edge of Siberian boreal forest ecoregion stretches into Mongolia forming unique, yet fragile strips sandwiched between dry cold tundra in the north (or at higher elevations) and dry semi-deserts in the south (or at lower elevations). These belts of forest habitats support the major share of the region’s species diversity. Finally, the Amur-Heilong River discharge greatly impacts another Global 200 marine Ecoregion — the Sea of Okhotsk.

Nowadays, the AHEC is becoming increasingly important both for national and global economies. The major challenge for conservation in the region is to balance economic development with a sustainable use of land and water resources. The current economic development results in a high demand for hydropower, wildlife products, timber, and mineral resources.

WWF has been actively working in the AHEC for over 20 years. The programme started in 1999 in the Russian Far East and expanded to the Northeast of China in 2006, and to the Northeast of Mongolia in 2007, as it became obvious that a transboundary approach was needed to address the conservation issues at the ecoregional level. Given that the geographic landscapes, national cultures and economies are very different, the conservation work needs to be undertaken in a flexible manner and with careful consideration of the political frameworks and capacities of the three offices in Russia, China and Mongolia.

The AHEC Strategic Plan has been revised several times during the past three-year programme implementation periods (2014, 2017, and 2020). These changes were in response to the recommendations of external
evaluations, the programmatic changes in WWF’s Global Programme Framework, and newly emerging threats and opportunities at global and regional levels.

The AHEC Strategic Plan 2021–2026 aims to make WWF’s conservation work in the ecoregion more effective by combining and integrating the individual efforts of the three implementing offices in a coherent programme with synergy effects and clearly identified priorities notably for cross-border cooperation. It documents the planned contribution to WWF’s Global Programme Framework, describes the threat underlying conceptual model, the scope for Environmental and Social Safeguards, theory of change and operational structure of the programme.