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Qinghai Hoh Xil

Date of Submission: 30/01/2015
Criteria: (vii)(ix)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Zhidoi County, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qinghai Province
Coordinates: N35 14 51 E91 47 28
Ref.: 5991
Word File

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The nominated property is located in the Hoh Xil National Natural Reserve, Zhidoi County, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu, Qinghai province of P. R. China. It is composed of the typical alpine meadow of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and relative habitat for Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsoni), bearing the outstanding universal value of Natural sanctuary of Qinghai-Hoh Xil Tibetan Antelope.

The east boundary reaches the east boundary of Hoh Xil national natural reserve.

The west boundary reaches the west boundary of Hoh Xil national natural reserve, i.e. the boundary between Qinghai province and Tibet Autonomous Region.

The south boundary reaches the south boundary of Hoh Xil national natural reserve, i.e. the boundary between Zhidoi County and the area under governance of Golmud.

The north boundary reaches the north boundary of Hoh Xil national natural reserve.

The four-corner latitude and longitude coordinates of the nominated property are shown as follows:

East corner coordinates: North latitude 35°39′54″ East longitude 94°1′38″;  

West corner coordinates: North latitude 35°14′16″ East longitude 89°27′18″;

South corner coordinates: North latitude 34°13′22″East longitude 92°29′49″;

North corner coordinates: North latitude 36°16′19″East longitude 89°58′30″.

Hoh Xil of Qinghai is located in the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve, and neighbored by the Suojia-Qumalai sub-region of San-jiangyuan Nature Reserve as buffer zone in the east. It constitutes the most important summer habitat and breeding ground for Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsoni) in the eastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Qinghai, east Tibet, and south Arkin area of Xinjiang), and it comprises several migration routes of the species.

Tibetan antelope is an endemic ungulate in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It has evolved with the uplift process of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and belongs to its own monotypic genera with unique adaptation. It is the flagship species of the alpine meadow ecosystem in the plateau, and symbolizes the conservation enterprises in the region. Tibetan Antelope is an IUCN EN species, listed in CITES I, and recognized as the National Class I Protected animal. The annual migration between its lambing ground and winter range is among the few significant migrations of terrestrial mammals on the planet and the sole example in China. Over 50,000 individuals roam in the nominated property and its buffer zone, which includes the lambing ground, summer range, migration corridors, and winter range, as well as grazing land of resident populations. The property embodies the most important habitat of the species.

Tibetan antelope, Tibetan Gazelle (Procapara picticaudata), Wild Yak (Bos grunniens), and Kiang (Equus kiang), Tibetan Pika (Ochotona curzoniae) and other endemic species form the unique herbivore community of alpine meadows widespread in the nominated property. They support a thriving community of carnivores, e.g. widespread Grey Wolf (Canis lupus), and endemic subspecies of brown bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus) as well as endemic Tibetan Sand Fox (Vulpes ferrilata) to the plateau. The rugged mountains in the nominated property accommodate different mammals from the alpine meadow, e.g. Blue Sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Tibetan Argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni), Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) and Manul (Otocolobus manul). Besides, the region is also the distribution center for cushion plants, where over 80% species occur. It is also the distribution center of the alpine bird genera Montifringilla, where over 60% of species occur. Many endemic species of the plateau occur in the nominated property. The evolution, ecology, adaptation and resilience of the ecosystem is of great importance to sciences.

Hoh Xil is a perfect example of the combination of alpine steppe and alpine wetland. A continuous spectrum of alpine meadows, alpine grassland, and alpine steppe comprise the horizontal vegetation zone. On the other hand, alpine meadows, alpine steppe, sub ice-snow belt, and snow belt comprise the vertical vegetation zones of the region, which offers chance for studying the response of alpine ecosystem’s response to global change.

 The property is the conjunction of Ancient Kunlun fault and plateau uplift of Himalayan Orogeny, which resulted in rugged and rolling hills and mountains. There are a series of famous mounts in the property, e.g. Bukedaban, Malan Shan, Gangzhari, Weixue Shan, Daxue Feng, and Jobazhachin. Modern glaciers are wide spread in the property, with total area over 180,000 ha. There are boiling spring groups with temperature of 91 ℃ under the Bukedaban Glacier. There are numerous plateau lakes in the property. The endorheic saline lakes in the property form the lake groups of east Qiangtang, while a few freshwater lakes link the headwater of the Yangtze River. The open lakeshore of Zuonai Lake and Taiyang (Sun) lake is famous lambing ground of Tibetan Antelope.

Wildlife, snow mountains, glaciers, lakes and grassland in the nominated property constitute a vast landscape of extraordinary beauty for the planet.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Hoh Xil is located in the hinterland of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is the youngest, highest and vastest plateau in the planet. It is home to large herds of endemic ungulates, also home to over 80% species of the cushion plants. Flora and fauna in the region form unique ecosystem of its own kind, and of great importance for conservation.

The seasonal migrations of Tibetan Antelope, Wild Yak and Kiang constitute a magnificent landscape of wilderness with depopulated open alpine meadow, snow-capped mountains and various great lakes in Hoh Xil. As the highest and youngest highland ecosystem, Hoh Xil’s alpine meadow is facing great impact from global climate change. The pressure and resilience of the system is of great value for science.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The area of nominated property is 4,120,000 ha and all located in the Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve. All the core area, some buffer area and some experimental area are included in the nominated property, so as to guarantee that all the important lambing grounds for the species are brought in.

Because Tibetan Antelope herds breeding in Hoh Xil nature reserve move out during winter, vast tracts of buffer zone (totally 4,650,000 ha) are designed. The Guerra Danon and Suojia-Qumalai Sub-region of Sanjiangyuan Natural Nature Reserve, and the region linking the two are included in the buffer zone. Thus the winter ground and migration corridors are all ensemble. The range of the resident herds in Suojia-Qumalai region is included, too.

The nominated property ensembles all the habitat types and sufficient area to support all stages of the species’ life history, including all other endemic and endangered species’ habitat in the region. The spectrum of alpine meadow-alpine grassland-alpine steppe-alpine desert is also included.

The boundary of the nominated property is clear and valid, within a national nature reserve. The vase buffer zone guarantees the integrity of the life history of species bearing the OUV.

Integrity of landscape: The nominated property maintains the intact landforms, geological structure and ecosystem since the late tertiary. Most areas in the nominated property is higher than 5,000 m and inhabitable for human. It is among the last depopulated area of the planet.

Integrity of Protected Area: The boundary of nominated property and buffer zone is determined by the vegetation type and the habitat of endangered species. There are three other greatest nature reserves in Asia surrounding Hoh Xil- Arkin, Qiangtang and Sanjiangyuan. They form the most important nature reserve networks in the plateau, and shelter the main body of the plateau’s ecosystem.

Hoh Xil was listed as provincial nature reserve in 1996, and then promoted as national nature reserve in 1997. In the same year, the Administration of Hoh Xil Nature Reserve of Yushu was established, and renamed as the Administration of Hoh Xil National Nature Reserve of Qinghai in 1999. There are Forest Public Security Bureau, executive office, accounting and finance office, office of conservation affairs, scientific research station, Budongquan station, Sonamdajie station, Wudaoliang station, Tuotuohe station and Zhuo Naihu seasonal Station. The effective institutions have eliminated poaching in the area for years.

Sanjiangyuan was listed as provincial nature reserve in 2000, and then promoted as national nature reserve in 2003. The administration of the nature reserve was established in 2001. The nature reserve is the largest one in China, and offer sufficient buffer zone around the nominated property.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Qinghai-Tibet plateau is the largest, highest, and youngest plateau of the world, with average elevation over 4,000 m, and total range over 2,500,000 km2. It is recognized as the World’s Ridge, and the 3rd Pole. The nominated property is located in the hinterland of the plateau, and is unique in the geological and biological evolution history, as well as the landscape. There has been no world heritage site in the plateau by now. The nominated property could be subjected to comparative study considering the natural world heritage sites in adjacent areas, of similar habitat, or meeting the same criteria.

In China, Xinjiang Tianshan, Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries- Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains, and Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas are located in adjacent to the nominated property. From the perspective of biodiversity, the nominated property is located in the different biogeographic provinces from the three. Though the species number is considerably lower, but higher endemism occurs. From the perspective of habitat types, the nominated property ensembles horizontal vegetation zones of alpine meadows, alpine grassland, alpine steppe and alpine desert. Xinjiang Tianshan ensembles the vertical vegetation zones of temperate arid mountainous area. The other two sites ensembles the vertical vegetation zones from lowland subtropical broadleaf evergreen forest to alpine screes.

In neighboring countries, The Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks and Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area are located in the Xanth Culler mountain and west Himalayan regions of India. Though these two sites share some similar alpine species with the nominated property, the endemic ungulates of alpine meadows of the plateau are absent, and the vegetation zone is different. In Kazakhstan, Saryarka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan is home to the last Saiga (Saiga tatarica) herds. The lakes in the site are key stopovers for migratory birds. The high altitude mountains are absent and totally different species occur. The “Tajik national park:The mountains of Pamir” in Tajikstan is nominated for the significant landscape, geological structure and biodiversity of Pamir Knot. The diversity of plants but the cushion plant is higher than the nominated property. The zoological community is different from the nominated property, too. The trans-boundary site Uvs Nuur Basin of Russia and Mongolia is an enclosed basin located at the northernmost corner of Central Asia. It accommodates the typical biotic community of the steppe in the east Eurasia, which is different from the community of the nominated property.

In the world, the natural heritage sites with migrating terrestrial mammals bearing OUV includes Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek in North America (shared by Canada and the U.S.), the Putorana Plateau of Russia, and the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania. The former two share similar arctic biotic community, with same species of migratory herds (caribou/reindeer). Anyhow, the full migratory routes have not been included in either site, while caribou/reindeer is a widespread species around the Arctic Circle. The Animal Migration in Serengeti has worldwide fame, but the full migratory route is not included either, while the species there is widespread in the Sub Saharan Africa. There are full migratory routes of endemic and endangered animals in the nominated property.