Encompassing 750 square miles, Chongming is the world’s largest alluvial island. Its rich soils and extensive estuarine wetlands — abundant with fresh and saltwater marshes, tidal creeks and inter-tidal mudflats — provide a safe haven for a diversity of birds and fish along spawning or migration routes.
Situated at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Chongming’s waters are the gateway to the East China Sea. Aquatic species like the Japanese eel and Chinese sturgeon linger here before traveling upriver to their spawning sites. Millions of swans, geese, and shorebirds like the Dunlin, Great Knot and Whimbrels, traveling along Asia’s north-south migratory route from as far away as Alaska and New Zealand, use Chongming as a destination for staging and wintering.
Global Refuge As National Model
Like islands around the world, Chongming’s habitats were threatened by the exploitation of resources, invasive species and sea level rise. Moreover, sitting less than 30 miles (46 kilometers) from Shanghai — the world’s fastest-growing city — Chongming could have been a victim of unrelenting urban sprawl. But instead Chinese leaders saw the opportunity to use Chongming as a national model for environmentally sustainable development. It's now a "green island," which — due to its proximity to Shanghai — can be used for eco-tourism and to increase environmental awareness.
In 2006, The Nature Conservancy was enlisted to help strengthen management of Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve, a 60,000-acre (24,000-hectare) wetland reserve recognized under the international Ramsar Convention through improved design and implementation of conservation strategies. To date, the Conservancy has:
- Conducted research with government and academic partners on the distribution of species and ecological zones within this dynamic, continuously shifting estuarine environment;
- Initiated a study on dynamic management models for the reserve, which incorporates temporal (migratory seasons, migratory species, evolving habitats, etc.) and spatial (sediment deposition and erosion, vegetation distribution, restoration, etc.) characteristics;
- Trained government and academic partners in Conservation Action Planning, an approach to planning, implementing and measuring conservation strategies;
- Organized a U.S. study tour for government partners to showcase effective practices in wetlands management and restoration;
- Assisted with an environmental awareness campaign targeted at reserve visitors — from around the nation and the world.
These efforts provide a strong platform for improved management and will inform the revision of the reserve’s master plan. More importantly, the efforts at Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve provide the opportunity to influence wetlands conservation nationwide. The Reserve’s Master Plan, which incorporates the Conservancy’s Conservation Action Planning approach and methodology, will be used as a model for estuarine wetland management in reserves across China.