International Crane Foundation


Report on Poyang Lake Wetlands Management Released


Siberian Cranes at Poyang Lake, China. Photo by Crane Wu


Crane Specialist Group

Poyang Lake in southeastern China is the last wintering area for nearly all of the critically endangered Siberian Cranes and 400,000 other waterbirds. The Jiangxi Provincial Government has developed proposals for a dam to be constructed across the outlet to Poyang Lake, where the lake empties into the Yangtze River. This project has the potential to transform the ecology of the wetlands, with irreversible impacts at both local and global scales (see side bar). A main concern is that a dam could substantially alter the normal water level changes within the lake basin caused by natural flooding cycles – cycles upon which the cranes depend for the growth of wetland plants during higher water levels in summer and access during winter low-water levels when the cranes forage on tubers of these plants buried in bottom mud.


Jim Harris, Chair of the Wetlands International – IUCN SSC Crane Specialist Group (and Senior Vice President at ICF) worked with Specialist Group members and IUCN to prepare the report, “An Ecosystem Approach to Resolving Conflicts Among Ecological and Economic Priorities for Poyang Lake Wetlands.” This 40-page document was delivered by IUCN to the Chinese Government in mid September.

Download full versions of the report in English or in Chinese:

IUCN Poyang Lake Report_English

IUCN Poyang Lake Report_Chinese

Given the global and regional importance of Poyang Lake, and the many uncertainties regarding lake functions and human impacts, the report recommends a process to be followed to ensure that ecological values of the wetland are retained, that threats to the system are addressed, and that all options for lake management are carefully evaluated and compared before a decision about the dam can be made.

This report recommends an Ecosystem Approach be applied to the management of Poyang. The Ecosystem Approach focuses on structure, processes, and interactions among organisms and their environment. The approach emphasizes the need for adaptive management due to the complex and dynamic nature of ecosystems and the absence of complete understanding of their functions.

ICF, IUCN and the Crane Specialist Group are ready to provide technical assistance to Jiangxi Province with regard to training, case studies, the assessments, or implementation of an Ecosystem Approach at Poyang Lake.

Why We Care

Ninety-nine percent of the charismatic and critically endangered Siberian Cranes, most of the world’s endangered Oriental Storks, as well as important populations of vulnerable White-naped and Hooded Cranes and Swan Geese depend on wetlands of Poyang Lake in winter. Changes to Poyang Lake would greatly increase risk of extinction for these threatened species.

In addition to biodiversity, Poyang Lake wetlands have major value for millions of people in surrounding counties and provinces downriver related to flood control, water supply, water quality, fisheries and other ecosystem services that could be substantially affected if natural hydrology of the lake system were altered.