Places We Protect: Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve

Near Shanghai, The Nature Conservancy is taking advantage of the intersection of one of China’s largest urban centers and one of the country’s most important nature reserves to build something unique for the country. Within the Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve, the Dongtan Bird House nature education center, run by the Conservancy and our partners, will help test a new model for how non-governmental organizations like the Conservancy can strengthen nature reserve management while engaging China’s urban citizens in land and wildlife conservation.


Encompassing 750 square miles, Chongming is the world’s largest alluvial island, formed from the rich deposits of Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze. Its fresh and saltwater marshes, tidal creeks and inter-tidal mudflats provide a safe haven for a diversity of birds and fish along migration or spawning routes.

Aquatic species like the Japanese eel and Chinese sturgeon linger here before traveling upriver to their spawning sites. And, in a given year, 1 million migratory birds representing 290 species, including waterbirds such as cranes, herons, geese, ducks, gulls and shorebirds, use Chongming as a destination for resting and wintering, traveling along Asia’s north-south migratory route from as far away as Alaska and Australia.


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 — one of the world’s largest cities — Chongming could have been a victim of unrelenting urban sprawl.

Instead, Chinese leaders saw the opportunity to use Chongming as a national model for environmentally sustainable development.

In 2006, the Conservancy was enlisted to help strengthen management of Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve, a 60,000-acre (24,000-hectare) wetland reserve.

And, in 2015, the Conservancy, through our local partner, signed a 10-year lease to manage 346 acres (140 hectares) within Chongming Dongtan using the land trust reserve model — a model we’re testing at several sites across China, including at our first land trust reserve, Laohegou.

“We hope that Dongtan will be a great example of how a Nature Reserve and an environmental organization can work together to protect wetlands and nature,” says Yang Bo, the Conservancy’s director for the Dongtan project.


On these 346 acres, the Conservancy also established the Dongtan Bird House, an education center where visitors can experience and appreciate nature through tours, workshops and volunteer work. Its proximity to Shanghai makes Dongtan the perfect location to expand awareness and support for conservation.

Over the next five years at the Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve, the Conservancy will work with our partners to:

  • Operate the Dongtan Bird House nature education and experience center
  • Showcase public participation and education in nature reserve management
  • Demonstrate innovative wetland management and restoration science
  • Continue monitoring species visiting the Reserve
  • Build an effective volunteer service system
  • Form a sustainable funding mechanism to support the Reserve’s operation

Our goal is for our work at Chongming Dongtan to serve as a model for estuarine wetland management across China and to bringing innovative solutions that inspire the public to help us achieve further successes.


Photo Contest Slideshow

See some of the incredible photographs entered into the "Nature Reserves of China, Through the Viewfinder" photo contest.


x animal

Sign up for Nature eNews!

Sign Up for Nature e-News

Learn about the places you love. Find out
how you can help.

Thank you for joining our online community!

We’ll be in touch soon with more Nature Conservancy news, updates and exciting stories.

Please leave this field empty

I'm already on the list!

Read our privacy policy.