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Restoring the high mountain peatlands of Ruoergai, China

Drainage, Yak and sheep overgrazing, and erosion severely damage the high altitude peatlands of the Ruoergai, located on the Tibetan Plateau in China. Working with communities and the government we diminish the grazing pressure, block erosion gullies, re-seed grassland and much more. The goal is to give the marshes their important natural functions back and improve the inhabitants well-being.

Action Description:


These high mountain peatlands are drying up due to overgrazing by sheep and yaks and drainage to create more grazing land. The loss of the grass and herb cover led to erosion and a decline of the water storage capacity of the loose organic peat soils. This desertification increased the poverty levels of Tibetan herdsmen. Downstream, there is evidence of increased flooding in Eastern China, partly due to the loss of water storage capacity from the Tibetan plateau. Furthermore, this degradation fuels global change the drained peat oxidates and emits CO2.

Fighting degradation

We worked with the government and local herders to introduce desertification control techniques and return heavily eroded grazing areas back into healthy wet grasslands. With the herder communities we planted thousands of seedlings in more than one thousand hectare of heavily desertified areas. We blocked erosion gullies and drainage canals to restore the water level and thus the water storage capacity. 

Diminish grazing pressure

To reduce the grazing pressure, we divided the grasslands into non-grazing and seasonal grazing areas. The communities committed to this rotational grazing for the next ten years. We constructed sheds to protect the sick or young cattle during harsh winters and reduce trampling of the grassland. These sheds were also used to store fodder in the summer to feed their livestock in the winter.

Poverty reduction

Firstly, we provided micro-credit through our Bio-rights scheme to improve local communities’ income as they reduce the number of livestock they feed. These same local people were involved in the grasslands restoration or improvement . We built greenhouses to provide for their energy needs so that the women no longer need to collect yak droppings - a task damaging their health . To further alleviate the poverty of the local herdsmen, family tourism was supported though providing solar heating facilities for guest houses.

Government taking over the work

In previous years we have involved different government levels, communities and other actors in developing the Ruoergai Conservation Strategy. Putting the strategy into action, local governments protect and restore additional parts of the plateau through gully control, fencing and reseeding of grassland for livestock and activities to control desertification. The Chinese government prioritises peatland restoration in its 12th Five Year Plan, and Aba Prefecture, part of the Ruoergai, allocates part of its annual budget for wetland restoration.


Ruoergai Forum

Furthermore, with all these actors (communities, local government and others) we have set up the Ruoergai Forum. The Forum supports the Ruoergai Peatlands Conservation Strategy. Other fora are also used to promote Ruoergai’s conservation, such as China’s poverty reduction programme and national programme on wetlands conservation and restoration.

Action Partners:

At national level, the State Forestry Administration was a key partner.

The Gansu Wild Animal and Plant Conservation Bureau, local governments and Gahai Zecha National Nature Reserve were our local partners.

More Action Details