Location and Values: The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries of Wolong, Mount Siguniang and the Jiajin Mountains cover an extensive tract of mountainous terrain in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, where 30% of the world’s endangered giant pandas (about 500 individuals) survive. The sanctuaries include a vaste range of habitats over an altitudinal range of 5,670m, with glacier-capped peaks (the highest, Mount Siguniang reaches 6,250m), alpine meadows, a variety of mixed conifer and deciduous forests, with sub-tropical forests in the lower lying valleys. It is one of the world’s richest temperate areas for biodiversity, with 5-6,000 species of plants including highly diverse assemblages of plant groups such as roses, peonies, magnolias, bamboos and rhododendrons. There are 542 species of vertebrate animals, including other endangered species such as the red panda, snow leopard and Sichuan takin, and notable diversity in particular groups such as pheasants (with no fewer than 11 species recorded).
Conservation Status and Threats. According to IUCN’s most recent Conservation Outlook Assessment (December 2020) the conservation status of the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries is considered to be ‘good, with some concerns’. 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 conservation of the site are noteworthy, including:
- Climate change. The impacts of climate change are not yet fully understood but may already be responsible for a broad range of changes, increasing the vulnerability of species and habitats to irreversible change. The warming climate is resulting in the expansion of forested habitats to higher elevations in the mountains, while reducing the area of alpine meadows that occupy these cooler zones. Alterations in habitat composition as a result of climate change may benefit some species, including giant pandas, while others are adversely affected.
- Human settlement and associated use of natural resources. There are small settlements scattered throughout the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, particularly along transport corridors. These are associated with local impacts on natural resources, including small-scale agriculture, grazing of domestic livestock, persecution of carnivores (including endangered species such as snow leopard and clouded leopard) and harvesting of natural products for craft work, medicines and firewood.
- Disturbance associated with roads. Several roads traverse the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, resulting in a certain amount of disturbance to habitats and movement of animals. Some important sections of these roads have been routed through long tunnels, thereby protecting overhead habitats and maintaining viable wildlife corridors.
- Dams and hydropower infrastructure. There is a major dam within the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries at Qiaoqi and smaller dams in Wolong associated with hydropower generation. Since 2017 the government has gradually shut down small hydropower stations in the region, with more than 80% of them now closed. Licenses for the remaining stations will not be renewed and no new hydropower stations will be allowed within the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries.
- Management re-organisation. The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries include seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks which are currently being brought together as a single management unit (the Giant Panda National Park) under the authority of the new Sichuan Forestry and Grassland Bureau, 2019. This should help ensure a more consistent integrated approach to management in the future.
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description