Peatland restoration for the Yellow River flow


Wetland International China, working with local and international partners, has supported local governmental sectors to recognise just how valuable the Ruoergai peatlands are. The organisation has worked to share knowledge and information about these peatlands both in and outside of China. With support under the UNEP/Global Envrionmental Facility and EU-China Biodiversity Conservation, peatland restoration activities have been tested and demonstrated in some drained canals, gully erosion and peat cutover sites.


The Ruoergai Plateau comprises 4,733 ha of peatlands in the upper catchment of the Yellow River, straddling the border of Sichuan and Gansu provinces. These peatlands are of key importance for the conservation of alpine biodiversity – both in the peatland and adjacent grasslands. They also provide key habitat for endangered wildlife species such as black-necked cranes and a range of rare birds, fish, amphibians and plant species. The area supports two national nature reserves, two designated Ramsar Sites and two provincial nature reserves. The main threat to the Ruoerga peatlands comes from overgrazing, which has caused a lowering of the water table because of the drained canals and gully erosion. However, the increasing temperature in the Tibet Plateau due to climate change has also affected the area. As well as environmental impacts, the degradation of these habitats has a significant impact on local communities as there is a reduction in ranger land, water supply, fodder crops and tourism potential.

Project Aims

Demonstration sites helped persuade individuals and groups that restoration was needed for nature as well as community livelihoods. Local authorities have since recognised the effectiveness of the methods used and have provided funding for large scale restoration. In addition, local government has prioritised ecological conservation as a long term objective. However, the main challenge still facing the restoration of peatlands in the Ruoergai Plateau is overgrazing. Grazing is a traditional practice that local communities rely on heavily for their livelihoods. As more peatlands have been restored and/or designated as protected areas, the pressure of grazing on the remaining pastures has increased. To move forward with peatland conservation in this area, it is therefore important to explore and offer alternative livelihood options and reduce the dependency on livestock husbandry on drained or degraded peatlands.

Restoration Delivered

Peatlands are very important for water provision, grazing potential and tourism development. This restoration project aims to protect the ecosystem services provided by this habitat, such as water supply, carbon storage and sequestration, whilst conserving traditional Tibetan cultural heritage. Working to prevent further degradation of the Ruoergai peatlands, several restoration methods have been put in place: •Canals have been blocked using wooden planks, bags filled with peat, sand and/or boulders. •Fencing has been used around some of the blocked canals to prevent trampling from yaks. •Re-vegetation has been initiated to stabilise soil surface. •Gullies have been blocked by bags filled with peat. •A concrete dam has been built to hold back the water in the open peat (cut 2m deep). To date, approximately 1,568 ha of peatland has been restored with evidence of successful re-vegetation; vegetation such as Halerpestes tricuspis, Equisetum heleocharis has been identified at restored sites. The results show that wood planks work well to increase water table level in the narrow and deep water canals whilst sand or peat bags work better in the wide and shallow canals. The blocking of the gullies showed positive effects, and the installation of plastic pipes helped guide water flow to the canals when water table was high enough to overflow surface, controlling soil erosion.


Project Name: Peatland restoration for the Yellow River flow

Organisation / Lead partner: Wetland International China

Approximate area covered: 4733 ha

Predominately: Upland

Project Type: Restoration