Location and Values: Mount Huangshan was amongst China’s first world heritage sites, and has been described as ‘the loveliest mountain of China’. It is a spectacular, isolated mountain capped with steep granite peaks and dissected by deep gorges, with innumerable granite towers, spires and balancing rocks where gnarled pines cling to life in the most unlikely places. It has provided inspiration for landscape artists, poets, writers and hermits over the centuries and is listed for both its cultural and natural attributes. Although it is a relatively small site it covers a wide range of altitude (from around 500m to 1864m) and supports a correspondingly rich flora with many endemic species. For example, half of China’s fern species are recorded here and a third of its bryophytes (mosses and liverworts).
Conservation Status and Threats. According to IUCN’s most recent Conservation Outlook Assessment (December 2020) the conservation status of Mount Huangshan is considered to be ‘good’. The exceptional values which are recognized by the site’s inscription on the World Heritage List are not seriously threatened, but a number of issues affecting its conservation are noteworthy, including:
- Exceptionally high visitor pressure. Mount Huangshan is renowned as the ‘loveliest mountain in China’, and receives several million visitors each year. There are three cable cars serving the summit area and a number of hotels, restaurants and other facilities at the top of the mountain. The intense tourism pressure is well managed, but continued vigilance is crucial to minimize erosion, protect the vegetation, manage scarce water supplies, waste and sewage without adversely affecting the area’s exceptional mountain scenery and other natural attributes.
- Poor air quality due to atmospheric pollution. The aesthetic value of Mount Huangshan is largely based on far-reaching vistas of its extraordinary rock formations with the contorted forms of ancient trees clinging to rock crevices. These views are significantly affected by a persistent haze of polluted air, arising in urban areas beyond the site boundaries.
- Climate change. The impacts of climate change are not yet fully understood but may already be responsible for a broad range of changes, threatening species and habitats with irreversible change. It is expected that climate change will result in (1) increased fire frequency and intensity due to a general rise in temperatures and increasing drought, (2) increased frequency of severe weather events such as storms, with wind, lightning, rain and snow, which cause rock falls and damage to trees., and (3) possible increases in the populations of alien species, including pathogens. Whilst none of these potential impacts has yet been documented at Mount Huangshan, it is worth recognizing the significance of the threat as the site provides habitat for a number of locally and nationally endemic plant species, several of which are globally threatened.
- Fire. The summit area of Mount Huangshan is particularly susceptible to wild fires due to its dry conditions and shortage of water in the dry season. An alpine fire protection network of artificial water ponds and associated infrastructure is in place to assist in the control of wild fires, but any decrease in water availability due to future climate change is likely to increase this threat.
- Spread of pine wilt disease. This disease is caused by a nematode which is spreading through the pine forests in Mount Huangshan and its surroundings. Action is being taken to control this disease through the establishment of isolation and quarantine stations, whilst monitoring is underway.
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description