Decision : 40 COM 8B.7
Examination of nominations of natural properties to the World Heritage List
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/16/40.COM/8B and WHC/16/40.COM/INF.8B2,
- Inscribes Hubei Shennongjia, China on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ix) and (x);
- Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
- Commends the State Party for its efforts to improve the conservation of the property and in particular its expeditious actions to expand the property in the Badong County area and implement a range of ecological connectivity measures to improve integrity during the evaluation process;
Hubei Shennongjia is located in the Shennongjia Forestry District and Badong County in China’s Hubei Province. Shennongjia is on the ecotone from the plains and foothill regions of eastern China to the mountainous region of central China. It is also situated along a zone of climate transition, where the climate shifts from the subtropical zone to warm temperate zone, and where warm and cold air masses from north and south meet and are controlled by the Subtropical Gyre.
The property covers 73,318 ha and consists of two components, the larger Shennongding/Badong component in the west and the smaller Laojunshan component to the east. A buffer zone of 41,536 ha surrounds the property. Hubei Shennongjia includes 11 types of vegetation which are characterized by a diversity of altitudinal gradients. The Shennongjia region is considered to be one of three centres of endemic plant species in China, a reflection of its geographical transitional position which has shaped its biodiversity, ecosystems and biological evolution. Hubei Shennongjia exhibits globally impressive levels of species richness and endemism especially within its flora, 3,767 vascular plant species have been recorded including a remarkable 590 temperate plant genera. In addition, 205 plant species and 2 genera are endemic to the property, and 1,793 species endemic to China. Among the fauna, more than 600 vertebrate species have been recorded including 92 mammal, 399 bird, 55 fish, 53 reptile and 37 amphibian species. 4,365 insect species have been identified. The property includes numerous rare and endangered species such as the Golden or Sichuan Snub-nosed Monkey, Clouded Leopard, Common Leopard, Asian Golden Cat, Dhole, Asian Black Bear, Indian Civet, Musk Deer, Chinese Goral and Chinese Serow, Golden Eagle, Reeve’s Pheasant and the world’s largest amphibian the Chinese Giant Salamander.
Shennongjia has been a place of significant scientific interest and its mountains have featured prominently in the history of botanical inquiry. The site has a special status for botany and has been the object of celebrated international plant collecting expeditions conducted in the 19th and 20th centuries. From 1884 to 1889 more than 500 new species were recorded from the area. Shennongjia is also the global type location for many species.
Criterion (ix): Hubei Shennongjia protects the largest primary forests in Central China and is one of three centres of endemic plant species in China. The property includes 11 types of vegetation and an intact altitudinal vegetation spectrum across six gradients including evergreen broad-leaved forest, mixed evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved forest, deciduous broad-leaved forest, mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forest, coniferous forest, and bush/meadow. With 874 species of deciduous woody plants, belonging to 260 genera, the tree species and genus richness of the site is unparalleled for a deciduous broadleaf forest type worldwide and within the Northern Hemisphere’s evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forests, Hubei Shennongjia contains the most complete altitudinal natural belts in the world. Hubei Shennongjia is situated in the Daba Mountains Evergreen Forests ecoregion and also within a priority ecoregion, the Southwest China Temperate Forest both of which are not yet represented on the World Heritage List. It also protects the Shennongjia regional centre of plant diversity which has been identified as a gap on the World Heritage List. In association with its floral diversity the property protects critical ecosystems for numerous rare and endangered animal species.
Criterion (x): Hubei Shennongjia’s unique terrain and climate has been relatively little affected by glaciation and thus creates a haven for numerous rare, endangered and endemic species, as well as many of the world’s deciduous woody species. The property exhibits high levels of species richness, especially among vascular plants, and remarkably contains more than 63% of the temperate genera found across all of China, a megabiodiverse country with the world’s greatest diversity of temperate plant genera. The property includes 12.9% of the country’s vascular plant species. The mountainous terrain also contains critical habitat for a range of flagship animal species. 1,550 Golden or Sichuan Snub nosed Monkeys are recorded in the property. The Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys in Shennongjia are the most endangered of the 3 sub-species in China and are entirely restricted to the property. Other important species include Clouded Leopard, Common Leopard, Asian Golden Cat, Dhole, Asian Black Bear, Indian Civet, Musk Deer, Chinese Goral, Chinese Serow, Golden Eagle, Reeve’s Pheasant and the world’s largest amphibian the Chinese Giant Salamander. The property has extremely rich biodiversity, contains a large number of type species, and hosts numerous rare species which have been introduced into horticulture worldwide. Internationally, Shennongjia holds a special place for the study of plant systematics and horticultural science.
The property covers 73,318 ha and is coincident with the majority of the Shennongjia National Nature Reserve in Shennongjia Forestry District. The larger Shennongding/Badong component in the west is 62,851 ha and includes the northern section of the Yanduhe Provincial Nature Reserve in adjoining Badong County. The Laojunshan component at 10,467 ha lies in the east. A buffer zone of 41,536 ha surrounds the property. The property is large enough to encompass all the essential components that form the unique biodiversity, biological and ecological values of the Shennongjia in Hubei. The boundaries are designated and clearly demarcated on the ground.
The property remains in good condition and threats are generally not of significant concern. However, the division of the site by National Highway 209 and the associated 10 km wide corridor is a cause for concern as it impedes wildlife movements and ecological connectivity. The implementation of an effective conservation connectivity strategy involving wildlife corridors, stepping stones or arrays of small patches of habitat, wildlife road crossings and the removal of fences is therefore essential to facilitate ecological connectivity for mobile wildlife, especially those species which normally require sizable habitat ranges.
Protection and management requirements
All of the property is owned by the state and has national or provincial protection status. Hubei Shennongjia is subject to a range of national, provincial and local laws and regulations which ensure long term strict protection. A multi-level management system has been established to manage the property. The property is subject to a number of plans and has a specific Hubei Shennongjia Management Plan tailored to World Heritage requirements and aimed at safeguarding the site’s Outstanding Universal Value. The management plan needs to be updated to cover management of the Yanduhe Provincial Nature Reserve in Badong County. The management plan should in addition elaborate on measures to integrate different areas of management expertise in a coordinated way across the different protected areas and other national and international designations. The management plan should be a forward-thinking tool that supports adaptive management. Zoning systems should be reviewed to account for the specific habitat and spatial needs of key species.
The property enjoys widespread support among all levels of Government, local people and other stakeholders. The property requires long-term, active management of the buffer zone to ensure that any developments are of an appropriate scale and design according to the values of the property. Furthermore that surrounding land uses are sympathetic to the values of the property and generate sustainable benefits to local communities. Increased attention and capacity is needed to manage issues within the buffer zone.
A concern stems from the potential of tourism use at the property to increase significantly. Significant improvements to transport infrastructure, most notably the opening of the nearby Shennongjia Airport in 2014, has the potential to dramatically increase visitation and consequent impact. Tourism planning, management and monitoring need to anticipate increasing demand and mitigate negative impacts.
Other threats relate to buffer zone developments and activities. Developments and encroaching landuse such as for tea cultivation need ongoing monitoring. Attention should be given to integrated conservation and community development initiatives in the buffer zones to foster stronger community stewardship of the World Heritage property.
- Notes that the State Party indicates that relocation of people from the property is encouraged by the Integrated Protection and Management Committee, and that such relocation from the property is a sensitive matter and therefore requests the State Party to ensure that any relocation activities are voluntary and fully respect international norms, and that further relocation activities should not be undertaken unless they are fully justified;
- Also requests the State Party to:
- continue to enhance ecological connectivity between the core habitat areas of the property through a range of measures such as wildlife crossings, corridors and habitat mosaics which facilitate wildlife movements and to ensure that management prescriptions are tailored to the specific needs of key wildlife,
- upgrade the legal protection to nature reserve standard of wildlife corridor and habitat stepping stone areas which are crucial to the property’s ecological integrity and consider nominating these as future extensions to the property,
- review the management planning system for the property to fully encompass the areas added to the property during the evaluation process, as well as the functioning of the buffer zones, and ensure an integrated and adaptive approach for the entire property,
- update the 2006-2015 Tourism Master Plan to ensure long-term and effective management of the anticipated increases in tourism demand, in particular to specify ecological and social carrying capacities and identify appropriate tourism infrastructure development,
- invest further in increased management capacity directed to the property’s buffer zone, with a particular emphasis on integrating cultural, social economic and co-management opportunities into the property’s management regime,
- undertake further research and inventory of key faunal populations including for example a population census of both the flagship species Golden Snub-nosed Monkey and the Giant Salamander,
- undertake a review of the property’s zoning system to prescribe management policies and actions tailored to the habitat and spatial needs of key species