A biodiversity hotspot is a region that contains a lot of plant and animal life that is threatened. The Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot is home to over 10,000 plants and animals. This hotspot stretches over 262,400 km². The hotspot also has low valleys and high mountains which are home to many plants and animals. The wide range of this environment causes a wide range of climate.
It contains lots of different vegetation and that means there are a lot of plants. In fact, it contains the most vegetation of any temperate region in the entire world. The area also has several ancient plant species that cannot be found anywhere else on the entire planet! There are bamboo forests, savanna, meadows, and all kinds of different terrain.
This biodiversity hotspot also includes a variety of animal life. There are white-speckled laughingthrush (a bird), pheasants, the giant panda, golden monkey, black snub-nosed monkey, reptile, amphibians, and freshwater fish. Many of these animals, such as the giant panda, are endangered.
The Mountains of Southwest China Hotspot is heavily affected by humans. The human population in this area has greatly increased. Even though this hotspot is very hard to reach due to its extreme climate, humans have already destroyed part of its natural beauty. There are 16 different ethnic groups living in this area including Tibetans.
Logging is one of the threats that affect this area. Even with logging banned in this area, it still affects this hotspot and is still happening at a high rate. People continue to cut down the trees for firewood and house construction.
Grazing herds of animals including sheep, yak and goats. Tibetan herdsmen bring their animals and let them graze in the summer and leave before winter. People have cleared forests for more land for their animals also. The overgrazing of animals has caused the soil to erode.
Emerging threats include dam building on all main rivers in the hotspot, mining, and unplanned mass tourism development, all of which are accompanied by road expansion.
Construction on the biggest dam in history, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, has begun and has already started to and will continue to threaten the environment and all the plants and animals as well.
There are also other dams that are being proposed to be built on main rivers. These dams might flood areas where there are nests and plants that get destroyed by an unexpected rise in the water level. These dams can also make tons of lives be affected. They might have to move due to flooding.
As in many of the hotspots in and around China, the collection of plants and animals for traditional medicinal purposes poses an enormous threat to the environment and its inhabitants.
Inhabitants of the Mountains of Southwest China
Because of the dramatic climate variations in this hotspot, it has lots of mini-hotspots each with its own climate, environment, and inhabitants.
This hotspot has an estimated 12,000 plant species, about 40% of all the species in China. There are an estimated 237 mammals, 611 birds, 92 reptiles, 90 amphibians, and 92 freshwater fish.
About 3500 plant species, 5 mammal species, 2 bird species, 15 reptile species, 8 amphibian species, and 23 freshwater fish can be only found here.
How This Hotspot is Protected
One way to protect biodiversity hotspots is to set aside land in parks or reserves. In the Mountains of Southwest China Biodiversity Hotspot, only 5.3 percent of the entire area is protected. The Wolong Nature Reserve is one of the most well known protected areas in this hotspot. The giant panda and about 4,000 plant species live in this reserve. There are other protected areas in this hotspot including Emei Shan Natural and Historical Heritage Reserve and the Luoji Shan Nature Reserve.
The Chinese government is also trying to protect this area. They have stopped logging and started a Land Conversion Program which is called the Grain to Green Policy.