The naturе of the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion ecosystems are biologically rich, and valued by the human population and countries for their natural qualities and ecosystem services. The crowns of evolution, the Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard thrive in extensive areas of intact forests, protected by effectively managed nature reserves and connecting corridors.
Protected areas cover 12% of the Amur Ecoregion territory: 7,3 million hectares of federal PAs and 8 million hectares of provincial PAs including 17 strictly protected areas, 7 national parks, 8 federal and 79 provincial wildlife refuges, 6 nature parks, 7 ecological corridors, and 2 wetlands. Sikhote-Alin and Dauria Nature Reserves is the UNESCO World Heritage site. Five more nature reserves are UNESCO biosphere reserves: Sokhondinsky NR, Far Eastern Marine NR, Dauria NR, Kedrovaya Pad NR and Khankaisky Nature Reserve. Six territories are included in the list of the Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites): Khanka Lake, Torey Lakes, Khingan-Arkharinskaya Lowland, Zeya-Bureya Plain, Bolon Lake and Udyl Lake.
The free flowing Amur River, uninterrupted by dams, ensures climate adaptation for regular monsoon floods and, supports freshwater relic communities and enormous shoals of migrating salmons and sturgeons. The Amur River valley, conserved in an internationally recognized Green Corridor, supports last breeding grounds of Oriental stork,eastern cranes and millions of migratory birds along the Northeast Asian Flyway.
Sustainable management of the viable ecosystems is linked to long-term regional strategiesof social-economic development. The Amur-Heilong Ecoregional program serves as a powerful symbol of international cooperation between peoples and countries of the basin.
The Amur-Heilong Ecoregion Complex covers a total area of 1.85 million km2. It includes the basin of the Amur-Heilong River in Russia, China and Mongolia. The area also includes the internal river basin of the Ulz River that drains its water to Torey lakes, the Uda River Basin, part of the Olekma River Basin, the eastern slope of the Sikhote Alin mountains and basins of the Razdolnaya-Suifun River and Tumannaya-Tumenjiang River. Technically the northern part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is part of the Amur-Heilong ecoregion but for political reasons does not fall within the scope of this PIA.
In Russia the AHEC encompasses 5 provinces: the totality of Amurskaya Oblast, Evreiskaya Autonomous Oblast and Primorskiy Krai, part of Khabarovskiy Krai (up to the North of the Uda River), and the Shilka and Argun Rivers Basin of Zabaikalskiy Krai (former Chitinskaya Oblast and Aginskii Buryatskii Autonomic Prefecture). In China the AHEC covers three provinces: the totality of Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, and part of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in Haelar-Dalaihu Basins. In Mongolia the AHEC covers parts of the following four provinces: Dornod, Sukhbaatar, Khentii and Tuv province in Onon and Kerulen Basins.
The majority of WWF’s work is focused on the southern portion of the ecoregion (Sikhote-Alin in Russia and Changbaishan in China), where both the levels of biodiversity and the threats are greatest. Integrated River Basin Management work is concentrated in the headwaters of the Amur River (Zabaykalskiy Krai in Russia and Dornod and Khentii provinces in Mongolia).
Poaching and illegal trade in derivatives
Despite the significant hardening of control and supervision over illegal hunting and trade in derivatives, the number of offenses in this area is still at a fairly high level. The flag species that WWF defined for the Amur ecoregion, Amur tiger or Far Eastern leopard, for example – are still in serious danger due to the high level of demand for its derivatives (especially for the traditional oriental medicine). Poaching, as well as unsustainable hunting management, also lead to a decrease in the big cats food supply (primarily ungulates). Cross–border illegal trade in derivatives is a serious problem in the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion.
Wildires and agricultural burnings
Fires are the most destructive factor in the forest conservation of the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion, in terms of the areas that suffer from annual effects of fires. The most difficult situation in this regard is in the forests and wetlands of the Russian part of the ecoregion, as well as the pastures of Mongolia. Intact temperate forests under the influence of fires are replaced by fields and shrubby thickets that lacks of biodiversity .
Agricultural land development
The lowlands and riparian forests of the Amur basin are actively developed for farmland - pasture territories are expanding here, fields for planting rice, corn and other crops are expanding. The greatest influence of this factor is experienced by the Chinese territories of the ecoregion, where the population density is highest.
The steppes of Dauria suffer the most from overgrazing. Millions of sheep, goats and cattle take a big toll on this ecosystem every year. About 70% of pasture areas are now considered degraded and have clear signs of soil erosion and reduced plant diversity. The problem is further exacerbated by climate change in the region.
Global warming, intermittent water scarcity and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are accompanied by increasing pressure on land use. Repeated periods of drought, followed by floods, cause serious damage to ecosystems, especially affecting the wetlands and the steppe in the Mongolian part of the ecoregion, which is landlocked and remote from the Pacific Ocean's climate-mitigating impact.
Illegal logging and unsustainable forest management
Illegal logging and unsustainable forest management lead to fragmentation of intact forests and the spread of forest fires. This problem is still relevant for all three countries in the Amur basin. While such provinces of North-east China as Heilongjiang and Jilin have legislatively extended the ban on deforestation in most forest areas, the problem remains very serious in the Mongolian and Russian parts of the ecoregion.
Transport infrastructure development
The creation of international transport corridors and the industrial infrastructure associated with these processes is an important part of the economic and political plans of the countries of the Amur-Heilong. However, the development of these processes negatively affects nature: for example, in Russia, extensive deforestation for laying roads leads to fragmentation of the habitats and wildlife disturbance, since new roads become opportunities for poachers who now can get to previously remote and inaccessible areas.
The development of mineral extraction in the steppes of the eastern part of Mongolia and the subsequent development of railway infrastructure have become a potential threat to the migration routes of the dzeren (Mongolian antelope), since the railway tracks becomes an insurmountable obstacle for migrating animals.
Dam construction is another factor seriously threatening the region's ecosystems. Water use in the three countries of the ecoregion can be characterized to a greater extent as unstable: the principles and policies regarding water use differ significantly, very little attention is paid to the role of free-flowing rivers in preserving the quality of the environment and the productivity of the entire ecosystem.
Since 2006 the offices of the World Wide Fund for Nature of all three countries that are part of the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion have kept in turn ecoregional digests containing important news, main achievements and information about the work done and the contribution of organizations to environmental activities in the ecoregion.
You can click on each of the digest below to learn more.