Living Yangtze

The Yangtze basin is a critical global ecoregion that contains some of our planet’s richest biodiversity.
WWF’s extended conservation network allows us to work in key areas including the Qinghai – Tibetan Plateau to protect Yangtze source waters and help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In the Upper Yangtze, we play an important role safeguarding the giant panda and its habitat.

Meanwhile, in the central, lower and Yangtze estuary WWF helps ensure water security through restoration and reconnection of lakes and rivers.

We’re also active in urban environments, with many successful low carbon demonstration projects now operating in Shanghai.

A Unique Region

The Yangtze is the world’s third longest river, running a 6,300-kilometer course that starts high in the Tibetan plateau and ends at the East China Sea near Shanghai.
It is one of the world’s most ecologically and socio-economically critical rivers for biodiversity, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems. The 1.8 million square kilometer area of the Yangtze River Basin is home to 480 million people, one-third China’s total population.

The Yangtze River Basin supports half of China’s total wild animal and plant species. The upper, central, and lower reaches of the Yangtze are the only home of endangered species including the snow leopard, giant panda and finless porpoise. This rich web of life is also one of China’s most important economic engines and accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s GDP.

Due to its environmental and socio-economic importance, WWF has designated the Basin one of 35 priority areas amongst the Global 200 Ecoregions (G200).

Growing Threats

China’s rapid economic development has made the Yangtze River one of the most polluted rivers in the world, threatening to destabilize the balance of its aquatic ecosystems and species. This is also affecting the river basin’s ability to provide clean drinking water for hundreds of millions of people.
Some of the most serious threats the river faces include infrastructure development, illegal hunting and overfishing, the unsustainable growth of tourism and water pollution. These impacts are already visible: many of the Yangtze’s high altitude wetlands disappearing, while further upstream, grassland degradation and desertification are threatening wildlife and people’s livelihoods. The effects of Climate change is also threatening to further destabilize the balance of life along the Yangtze with extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and large storms occurring more frequently.

WWF Actions for a Living Yangtze

The Yangtze Basin is a major concern not only for the Chinese government, but also for the international community.
Three of the Basin’s wild animal species are included in WWF’s 13 flagship species, the snow leopard, giant panda and finless porpoise, which are all important indicator species for assessing ecosystem health.   

WWF-China has six field offices scattered along the Yangtze Basin in Lhasa, Chengdu, Xi'an, Wuhan, Changsha and Shanghai. These offices have to date implemented more than one-hundred conservation projects that focus on species, forests, freshwater, climate change and adaptation, capacity building, policy advocacy as well as environmental education.

Over the last 30 years, WWF has funded over RMB405 million (US$61.5 million) in project work across the entire Yangtze Basin.