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Integrated conservation of the unique flora of the Zhoushan Archipelago, China

17 June 2014
BGCI China has recently initiated a project in the Zhoushan Archipelago. In collaboration with the College of Life Sciences & Institute of Ecology of Zhejian University, this project will carry out floristic investigation of Huaniao Island. The project will also involve integrated conservation of threatened and endemic plant species, restoration of degraded ecosystems, and survey and management of invasive species. The project will inform study of the impact of global environmental change on island ecosystems and raise local awareness of the unique diversity of the islands and the need for conservation.

The Zhoushan Archipelago is located in the East China Sea to the south of the Yangtse River mouth. It is made up of 1390 land-bridge islands with a total land area of 1439 km2. These islands were formed by sea level rise in the late Quaternary glacial period, the islands used to be the main range of the Tiantai Mountains in eastern Zhejiang stretching northeastward into the East China Sea, and are mostly hill-shaped with maximum height <250m a.s.l..

This project will focus on Huaniao Island - “Flower and Bird Island” in English. This island is located in the northeast extreme of the Shengshi Islands range (121̊ 30’~123̊ 25’E, 30̊ 24’~31̊ 04’N) which makes up part of the Zhoushan Archipelago. Huaniao Island is 3.7km in length and 0.96 km in width, with an area of 3.59 km2 and a population of approximately 2400.

Compared with mainland China, the floristic investigation of the Zhoushan Archipelago is incomplete due to the inaccessibility of the islands. This project will undertake a complete investigation of the plant diversity of Huaniao Island. So far, the project team have gained the support of relevant authorities, including forestry bureaus and government, and have commenced exploration of the project sites.

In May 2014, six sample lines with 10m wide transects running across the Huaniao Island in different directions were set up, 2 eastwardly and 4 northwardly, for floristic investigation.
All angiosperm species within these transects were identified, recorded and catalogued. A preliminary checklist of the vascular plants was drafted.
 
Four plots for each vegetation type on the Huaniao Island were set up and investigated. Three plots of target communities on other islands including Zhujiajian Island, Luojiashan Island, and Damao Island, were also set up and investigated.
 
The vegetation (plant community type) of each plot was classified based on the calculation of importance value of each layer, in particular the main layer of the community (e.g. canopy layer of the forest community). The findings of floristic investigation will inform conservation priorities for the implementation of integrated conservation action at later stages of the project.

A key species focus of this project is the Critically Endangered tree species Carpinus putoensis. This species is endemic to Putuo Island, also in the Zhoushou Archipelago, with only one remaining wild individual. This remaining individual is growing on the back of Huiji Temple. An area of one hectare (near situ conservation site) was established at Fodingshan on Putuo Island to conserve this species and around 79 individuals were cultivated, which are now around 30 years old. Zhoushan Institute of Foresty established a nursery and an ex situ conservation base behind the institute where about 20 plants are growing.

If C. putoensis is located during floristic investigation of Huaniao Island, in situ conservation measures will be implemented.
 
If this species is not found, an ex situ conservation site will be established for this species on Huaniao Island to increase the security of current conservation actions for this species.

In September, a stakeholder workshop on the conservation of island plant diversity will be held in Zhoushan. This will raise local awareness of the unique island flora and the importance of plant conservation.

Find out more about the work of BGCI China
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