Places We Protect: Lashi Lake, Northwest Yunnan

The Lashi Lake watershed provides a critical habitat for the endangered black-necked crane.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Rich in cultural and biological diversity, the Lashi Lake watershed is home to two minority ethnic groups, the Naxi and the Yi, and provides critical habitat for the endangered black-necked crane. The watershed is also the primary water supply to a large downstream population and the rapidly growing tourism industry in the historic city of Lijiang.

In recent years, the Lashi Lake watershed has been seriously degraded. The natural forest in the upland parts of the watershed is being cleared for agricultural use and for wood-burning stoves, resulting in soil erosion in the lake. Additionally, tourism, agricultural runoff and lack of water treatment systems lead to water pollution and flooding. Inappropriate local farming and fishing practices also contribute to excessive habitat disturbance, and the productivity of the area's fishery is starting to decline.

The forests between Lashi Lake in Lijiang County, and Wenhai, a smaller alpine lake beneath Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, are home to more than 15 rhododendron species. Lashihai wetlands are home to 93 species of plants.

Lashi Lake provides habitat for 198 bird species, 77 of which are migratory shorebirds. This area has the greatest abundance of bird species in Yunnan. As many as 80,000 birds migrate to this wetland during winter. Three are National First-Ranked Protection species: the black stork, black-necked crane and hooded crane. The black-necked crane is considered globally vulnerable and is distributed only in southwest China. This species is now rare, breeding on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and northwest Sichuan and wintering in wet, cultivated areas of southern Tibet, Yunnan and Guizhou.

Our Conservation Strategy
The Conservancy, with the Lashi Lake Nature Reserve, prepared an improved management plan for the reserve. The plan includes ecotourism planning and development as well as sustainable livelihoods for local people, medicinal plants, rhododendron species, fisheries management and alternative energy use.

Since 2001, the Conservancy has been active in implementing environmental education, ecotourism and alternative energy projects in the Lashihai area. In addition, the Conservancy has worked closely with the Nature Reserve to build their scientific and management capacity, carrying out important research such as vegetation surveys.

What the Conservancy Is Doing
The Conservancy's Lashi Lake project includes:

  • Sponsored an ecotourism project that allows tourists to view wildlife in the nature reserve, learn about the cultural traditions of the minority Naxi and Yi people, and trek through the upland areas on the slopes of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.  Local people have received training in natural and cultural resource protection, interpretation, guiding, marketing, and business planning.
  • Established a Community Conservation Development Fund so that local communities and ecotourism enterprises can contribute a percentage of tourism-related income to natural resource management in the Lashi Lake area. Tourists also contribute to the fund through the purchase of Visitor Guides which offer information on the area’s biological and cultural diversity.
  • Developed a comprehensive fisheries management plan that encompasses harvest limits, seasons, sites, methods, wildlife needs, pollution abatement, water-level management and marketing of fish with commercial value. Also under study are proposals for farming introduced fish species, and the potential for negative impacts on native fish and wildlife.
  • Carried out alternative energy installations in over 1,200 households and school demonstration sites. These installations include biogas, digesters, solar, energy-efficient stoves and more.

Future plans include working with local partners to offer training, design ecotourism activities and carry out tourism monitoring.

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