International Crane Foundation

Keerqin Nature Reserve, China

Amur-Heilong Conservation Story

Keerqin Nature Reserve, China

Amur-Heilong River

The Amur-Heilong River forms the border between Far Eastern Russia and northeastern China. Large areas have been set aside to protect wetlands and their abundant wildlife in the river basin; however management of these areas is difficult due to water use outside the protected areas. Our challenge in the Amur-Heilong River basin is to develop water management plans that address the needs of both wildlife and people, as water needed to sustain the wetlands and cranes also supports nearby communities and agricultural lands.


ICF In Action

In China, ICF is working with nature reserve staff and regional authorities to develop water management and wetland restoration plans for protected wetlands in the river basin, with the goal of securing long-term water supplies for these sites. By restoring water flows to these wetlands, valuable habitat for waterbirds, along with resources that local communities depend upon, such as fish and reeds, are also protected.

Water release at Zhalong Nature ReserveWe have completed water management plans for four national-level nature reserves in Northeast China: Zhalong, Momoge, Xianghai and Keerqin Reserves. We are also engaged in a pilot restoration project for the Zhalong wetlands, the largest of these reserves. Water releases were directed to the Zhalong wetlands from canals surrounding the reserve in 2003, 2005 and 2008 (left). Additional water diversions to the wetlands in Xianghai and Momoge Nature Reserves have occurred with positive results. Features of our Zhalong water management plan have been adopted into regional water management plans endorsed by the State Council of China, the country’s top decision-making body. In addition, provincial and city governments have committed funds to pay for the water to be released into Zhalong Nature Reserve.


The Way Forward

In Russia, construction of dams on tributaries of the Amur River is changing the natural flooding patterns and water levels in almost all wetlands within the basin in this area. These changes, coupled with prolonged drought, have led to widespread, highly damaging fires that sweep through wetlands – destroying eggs, chicks and dead grass necessary to camouflage nests.

ICF is developing plans to share our experience and methods of wetland research and conservation through a water workshop at Muraviovka Park, a private nature reserve near the Amur River. During joint field studies we will provide training to Russian specialists and students on water monitoring and management, conduct a survey of the nearby Giltchin River and its artificial reservoirs, and inform regional governmental agencies of the threats to wetlands and waterbirds. As a result of these studies a Conservation Plan for Giltchin River will be developed. This plan will serve as a model for the development of similar plans for other watersheds in the Amur Basin. Such conservation plans will help provide better protection of wetlands important for waterbirds, enhance conditions for endangered species as well as for fishing and recreation important to local residents, and improve the quality of drinking water.

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“By restoring water flows to these wetlands, valuable habitat for waterbirds, along with resources that local communities depend upon, such as fish and reeds, are also protected.”


Swan geese, Xianghai Nature Reserve

Swan geese, Xianghai Nature Reserve. Photo by Zhao Jun

Zhalong’s Disappearing Wetlands, China – Asia Society

ICF’s Senior Vice President Jim Harris and Research Associate Su Liying are interviewed in this video highlighting the Zhalong wetlands and Red-crowned Cranes of Northeast China.