Qinghai Hoh Xil

China
Inscribed in
2017
Criteria
(vii)
(x)

Qinghai Hoh Xil, located in the northeastern extremity of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, is the largest and highest plateau in the world. This extensive area of alpine mountains and steppe systems is situated more than 4,500 m above sea level, where sub-zero average temperatures prevail all year-round. The site’s geographical and climatic conditions have nurtured a unique biodiversity. More than one third of the plant species, and all the herbivorous mammals are endemic to the plateau. The property secures the complete migratory route of the Tibetan antelope, one of the endangered large mammals that are endemic to the plateau. © UNESCO

Summary

2017 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
10 Nov 2017
Good with some concerns
The cumulative effects of the different threads needs an efficient end targeted monitoring system and related management responses. The protection is in place but it needs to be more coordinated with the surroundings protected areas and other politics (transportantion, energy) to be effective.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
Inscription in 2017: a definition of the trend for the values is not possible

Overall THREATS

High Threat
The property is very large but some potentiial and actual threats like the effects of climete change on the landscape and ecosystem, the impact of the transport infrastructures ont he movement of the ongulates and birds as well as ome activities linked tho agriculture if not well managed could be very impactant on the aestetic, ecosystemic and biodiversity values of the property.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
The protection and management system is not fully addressing the threats to the site’s values, resulting in a number of conservation issues. IIt should be broadened to the surrounding protected areas and focussed on the important threats affecting the OUV as well as on the monitoring of the effects of these threads.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
10 Nov 2017

Description of values

exceptional natural beauty

Criterion
(vii)
The property is a place of extraordinary beauty at a scale that dwarfs the human dimension, and which embraces all the senses. The contrast of scale is a recurring theme in Hoh Xil as high plateau systems function unimpeded on a grand scale, wildlife is vividly juxtaposed against vast treeless backdrops and tiny cushion plants contrast against towering snow covered mountains. In the summer, the tiny cushion plants form a sea of vegetation, which when blooming creates waves of different colours. Around the hot springs at the foot of towering snow covered mountains, the smells of dust, ash and sulphur combine with the sharp cold wind from the glacier. Glacial melt waters create numerous braided rivers which are woven into huge wetland systems forming tens of thousands of lakes of all colours and shapes. The lake basins comprise flat, open terrain incorporating the best preserved planation surface on the Qinghai­Tibet Plateau as well as an unparalleled concentration of lakes. The lakes display a full spectrum of succession stages, forming an important catchment at the source of the Yangtze River and a spectacular landscape. The lake basins also provide the major calving grounds of the Tibetan antelope. In early summer each year, tens of thousands of female Tibetan antelopes migrate for hundreds of kilometres from wintering areas in Changtang in the west, the Altun Mountains in the north and Sanjiangyuan in the east to Hoh Xil’s lake basins to calve. The property secures the complete antelope migratory route between Sanjiangyuan and Hoh Xil, supporting the unimpeded migration of Tibetan antelope, one of the endangered large mammal species endemic to the Plateau.

Exceptional level of endemism and significant habitat for in situ conservation

Criterion
(x)
High levels of endemism within the flora of the property are associated with high altitudes and cold climate and contribute to similarly high levels of endemism within the fauna. Alpine grasslands make up 45% of the total vegetation in the property dominated by the grass Stipa purpurea. Other vegetation types include alpine meadows and alpine talus. Over one third of the higher plants found in the property are endemic to the Plateau and all of the herbivorous mammals that feed on these plants are also Plateau endemics. There are 74 species of vertebrates in Hoh Xil, including 19 mammals, 48 birds, six fish, and one reptile (Phrynocephalus vliangalii). The property is home to Tibetan antelope, wild yak, Tibetan wild ass, Tibetan gazelle, wolf and brown bear, all of which are frequently seen. Large numbers of wild ungulates depend on the property including almost 40% of the world's Tibetan antelope and up to 50% of the world's wild yak. Hoh Xil conserves the habitats and natural processes of a complete life cycle of the Tibetan antelope, including the phenomenon of congregating females giving birth after a long migration. The calving grounds in Hoh Xil support up to 30,000 animals each year and include almost 80% of the identified birth congregation areas in the entire antelope range. During the winter, some 40,000 Tibetan antelopes remain in the property, accounting for 20-40% of the global population.
ecosystem and evolution
Ther property is representative of the biological and ecological evolution on
the Pamir-Tian-Shan Highlands. It extends across the Eurasian forest floristic subregion and Asian desert floristic subregion. Its features of altitudinal vegetation distribution, significant differences between north and south slopes, and diversity of flora, all illustrate the biological and ecological evolution of the Pamir-Tian-Shan Highlands. Due to its special location, topography and climate, the Kalajun-Kuerdening component became a refuge for relic species in the Paleogene period.
example of ongoing biological and ecological evolution process in a temperate arid zone.
Since the Pliocene epoch (5Ma), the landforms, ecosystems, habitats and landscapes didn't suffer important chages because of the pattern of two deserts flanking one mountain, the location deep in Asia's hinterland and the arid continent climate, which is unique among the world's mountain ecosystems.

Assessment information

High Threat
The cumulative effects of threats like the railway anr trainway corridor, the fencing and other agricultural activities linked to grazing on the ecosystem and estetic values are of concern. This situation needs effectives management responses.
Roads/ Railroads
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
The highway affects with severity the migration route of the Tibetan antelope from the Sanjaiguyan NR to the calving grounds and back as well as the displacements of wildlife in general and the ecological network of the plateau. This affects both criteria (vii) and (x). The management response seem however effective, as the population of antelopes is rising. The guards of the Hoh Xil national reserve bloc the traffic for 1.30 – 2 hours per day during the migration period to let the animal pass the highway. The actual management works on a non-written agreement between the road authorities (the road is under Tibet responsibility even if it is located in the Qinghai Province).
The highway affects also the other population of animals like the wild yack and other ungulates. No monitoring of the mortality due to the highway is set up to assess this impact and no management response is put in place.
The traffic on the highway is growing due to the big development occurring in the Tibet province. In the same time the population of antelopes and other is growing in the nominated property due to better conservation measures. This can potentially create a conflict in the future if relevant management responses are not met (field observation)
IUCN sought information from the State Party about the status and future plans for the road, and the State Party has confirmed that at the present time there is no committed plan for road upgrading. It would be essential that, should the State Party take action to upgrade the road (including the options to reduce its
impact on migration, such as underpasses), that such a project should be subject to a very thorough and careful assessment, involving leading expertise. In the meantime, two clear essential requirements are to maintain the current and apparently effective management of the road, and to monitor continuously
its effectiveness. It would also be important to improve the level of monitoring of the impacts of the road on wildlife, including tracking details of roadkill, in order to also consider if impacts on other species than the Tibetan antelope require enhanced protection measures (IUCN Evaluation, 2017)
Roads/ Railroads
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
The Railway is built to respect as well as possible the corridors of migration of the antelopes. The underpasses are very large and effective. However its impact should be taken in account in the monitoring (IUCN evaluation, 2017)
Livestock Farming / Grazing
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
Division of land and fencing campaigns led by the
government, for husbandry purpose as well as antidesertification
and wetland protection purposes, are
notable current threats, as fencing disrupts the
migration route of Tibetan antelope and the
displacement of the wildlife in the nominated property
and in the buffer zone. Some actions are undertaken
by the reserves and NGOs to remove the fences, but
many are still in place. Reported illegal settlement to
the south of the property is also resulting in fencing. It
will be imperative that the State Party takes care to
ensure that fencing that would threaten the migration
routes for animals breeding in the property is not
permitted or promoted at any point, and acts to
manage any existing fencing (IUCN Evaluation, 2017).
Livestock Farming / Grazing
Low Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Intensive grazing and human-wildlife conflict is a
current threat in part of the property, within
Sanjiaiguyan Nature Reserve. Sheep and cattle
compete with wildlife for food and heavy grazing can
cause the degradation of the grassland ecosystem.
The government has an effective policy for reducing
animal husbandry offering incentives and
compensation to not graze the land to the relevant
households. The IUCN mission understood that
grazing intensity has fallen substantially in the last
years, and thus it is recommended that this present
policy is continued. However, it is important to note, as
discussed above, that a distinction should be made
regarding the support for long-standing traditional
grazing at intensities that can be supported by the
natural ecosystem, in order to respect and protect
legitimate traditional use and the rights associated with
it (IUCN Evaluation, 2017)
Livestock Farming / Grazing
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
The IUCN mission noted concern regarding poisoning
campaigns for the eradication of the small mammal
Pika ochtona, which is a current threat of medium
severity to the biodiversity. There is mounting evidence
that Pikas are a keystone species that provide critical
ecological services in the alpine meadow ecosystem.
Thus poisoning would potentially impact on the
functioning of the ecosystem and on the biodiversity of
the nominated property. No organised management
response to Pika is in place, although it is understood
that the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve Administration has in
the past refused to put in place eradication campaigns,
and not accept financial subsidies, thus this issue has
been primarily related to practice in Sanjiangyuan
Nature Reserve. In response to a concern raised by
IUCN, the State Party notes that no poisoning will be
planned in the nominated area and the buffer zone (IUCN Evaluation, 2017)
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration
Low Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
The nominated property is impacted as a result of
climate change, and the IUCN mission sought to clarify
the situation as it is currently understood and the
intended management responses. In past decades,
the recorded average temperature and average
precipitation in the Hoh Xil reserve area rose significantly. From 1961 to 2015, the annual average
temperature change is 0.34℃ per decade, and the
recorded average annual precipitation increased by c.5
mm per decade. With this rapid change, glaciers,
permafrost, rivers, lakes, wetlands and springs have
responded accordingly, offering what is a dramatic
example of terrestrial landscape change and a rare
record of geomorphic processes. The primary
productivity of the nominated property appears to have
increased, new rivers and lakes and marshlands have
emerged, offering new habitats to ungulates and water
birds. The change of landscape also resulted in
changes to the movement patterns of ungulates and
migratory birds. Practical management responses are
difficult to put in place in relation to these trends, as
the situation requires first to be understood, and the
underlying knowledge and science base is rapidly
evolving. At the present time it is firstly essential to put
in place a strengthened and coordinated programme of
monitoring of the effects of climate change, and to
consider the options for management responses.
Considering the large scale of the property, there is a
significant opportunity to provide information about
change, and lessons regarding response, that would
be of international interest (IUCN Evaluation 2017)
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
The IUCN mission noted that the invasive species
Stellera chamaejasme, which is a poisonous plant that
invades areas of degraded vegetation, is a threat to
the ungulate. As this species is also problematic for
livestock, its control relies on preventing overgrazing
and grassland degradation, and requires further
monitoring and study to improve management
responses.(IUCN EValuation 2017)
High Threat
The comulative effects of thhe growing of the traffic, the rising effects of climate change on the landscape and ecosystems as well as the possible tourism development are a high potential threats on all the values.
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration
High Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
The nominated property is impacted as a result of climate change, and the IUCN mission sought to clarify the situation as it is currently understood and the intended management responses. In past decades, the recorded average temperature and average precipitation in the Hoh Xil reserve area rose significantly. From 1961 to 2015, the annual average temperature change is 0.34℃ per decade, and the recorded average annual precipitation increased by c.5 mm per decade. With this rapid change, glaciers, permafrost, rivers, lakes, wetlands and springs have responded accordingly, offering what is a dramatic example of terrestrial landscape change and a rare record of geomorphic processes. The primary productivity of the nominated property appears to have increased, new rivers and lakes and marshlands have emerged, offering new habitats to ungulates and water birds. The change of landscape also resulted in changes to the movement patterns of ungulates and migratory birds. Practical management responses are difficult to put in place in relation to these trends, as the situation requires first to be understood, and the underlying knowledge and science base is rapidly evolving. At the present time it is firstly essential to put in place a strengthened and coordinated programme of monitoring of the effects of climate change, and to consider the options for management responses. Considering the large scale of the property, there is a significant opportunity to provide information about change, and lessons regarding response, that would be of international interest (IUCN Evaluation 2017)
Renewable Energy
Low Threat
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
At present, there are three overhead transmission lines in the Hoh Xil area, including the Qinghai-Tibet DC transmission project (± 400Kv Chaila line) and the Qinghai-Tibet railway power supply project (110kV NaWu line and 110kV WuTuo line), of Which ± 400kV Chaila direct current transmission line has the total length of 1031.692 kilometers and 2361 base towers. The line mainly goes along both sides of the Qinghai-Tibet Highway in parallel, about 100-300 meters from the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, of which Section # 400- # 960 has 561 base towers, and a total length of 243.161 km, going through the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve area. The powerline is a potential treats to birds. Even though the authorities in charge of the national grid have taken some important measures to assess this treats (see annex 5.3), with the changing on the lakes new bird species (cranes and geese) have settled in number in the property and it is important to take this in account (field visit 2016).
Power supply lines are also included within the
transport corridor, and are a potential treat to birds.
The authorities in charge of the national grid have
taken measures to assess threats and provide
measures to discourage bird strike, but there is a need
to both monitoring and report on their effectiveness,
and to consider that as the environment evolves, some
bird species may become settled in the property
requiring different measures to be considered (IUCN Evaluation, 2017)
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
Low Threat
Inside site
, Not applicable
For the moment there are very few tourists that visit
the nominated property, due to the combination of
altitude and the challenging conditions. The authorities
are investing in new infrastructure, such as a view
point on the motorway and new visitor centre at the
Sonam Dhargey Station. A simple tourism strategy
which proposes a limitation of the visitor numbers is
defined in the management plan, but no specific
measures are defined to achieve this. Given the scale
of the site and the limited current activity, tourism does
not appear to be a particularly significant threat at the
present time, however a more elaborated tourism
strategy is clearly needed and should be developed as
the management plan is reviewed. It would be
important that tourism opportunities are linked more
widely to the activities of local communities in the
buffer zones of the nominated property, and to wider
tourism plans in Qinghai and its neighbours. World
Heritage related strategies should be connected to the
wider economic development of the local area in the
most relevant way (IUCN Evaluation, 2017)
The property is very large but some potentiial and actual threats like the effects of climete change on the landscape and ecosystem, the impact of the transport infrastructures ont he movement of the ongulates and birds as well as ome activities linked tho agriculture if not well managed could be very impactant on the aestetic, ecosystemic and biodiversity values of the property.
Relationships with local people
Some Concern
As detailed in the
nomination, there are a series of plans in place for the
area, and a specific management plan related to World
Heritage, Qinghai Hoh Xii Property Management Plan
(2015-2020), was approved in 2015 based on
recognition of a substantial wilderness zone across the
large majority of the area, and an exhibition zone in the
north-eastern part where activities related to
management, and the provision of tourism related
opportunities would be focused. The management plan
appears to provide an adequate basis for the
management of the property. There appears to be adequate capacity to implement
the management plan with clear commitment from
national and provincial levels, and amongst local
government. At ground level, the management
authorities of the two nature reserves that cover the
nominated property are responsible for
implementation.
There are a number of means by which management
could be strengthened, and deserve attention. A
number of these matters were raised and responded to
in the request for supplementary information made by
IUCN to the State Party, including an extensive
discussion on monitoring plans. There appears to be a
need to strengthen and focus monitoring efforts (as
noted below) and it would be beneficial to institute an
ongoing means to track management effectiveness,
using methods developed by IUCN through the World
Commission on Protected Areas, and ensure
systematic feedback into improvements in property
management. It would also be desirable to strengthen
the participation of the local herding community within
management activities, noting there is already some
notable engagement. Whilst the good cooperation
between the two reserves and the neighbouring
reserves to the west is noted, this should (IUCN Evaluation Report, 2017)
Legal framework
Effective
The nominated property, and its buffer zone lie within
two protected areas (Hoh Xil and Sangjiangyuan
Nature Reserves), which have the same national legal
protection status. The two protected areas are national
level nature reserves and are protected by the
Regulation of the People’s Republic of China on
Nature Reserves (adopted 1994). Accordingly, before
nomination, the management authorities of both
Nature Reserves have been set up with relevant
structures and staffing.
After the nomination, the Conservation Regulation of
the Hoh Xil Natural Heritage Area in Qinghai Province,
was adopted by the Standing Committee of Qinghai
Provincial People’s Congress, valid from October
2016. The Conservation Regulation regulates
planning, protection, management and utilization
activities within the territory of nominated property and
its buffer zone. According to this regulation an
administrative authority for the nominated property will
be set up under the Department of Housing and
Urban-Rural Development of Qinghai Province to
assume protection and management responsibility for
the property. As noted above, two other national level Nature
Reserves, Chang Tang and Altun Mountain Nature
Reserve, provide further buffering functions, although
are not included as a formal World Heritage buffer
zone. The Kunlun Mountains provide a natural barrier
to the north of the nominated property (IUCN Evaluation, 2017)
Enforcement
Highly Effective
Even if the property has a big surface it is not very easy to acces and the patrol are staffed adequately. The law enforcement seems also to be effective (Field visit, 2016)
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Some Concern
The overall management has a cooordination role between the management of the protected areas involved in the inscription. A better coordination between the agricultural, tourism, transportation and nature conservation policy would be a needed to reach a better integration un the provincial planning systems (IUCN field visit, 2016).
Management system
Effective
The management plan
appears to provide an adequate basis for the
management of the property. The plan will undergo an
anticipated regular review (starting with the first update
scheduled for completion in 2020) to allow
improvements to be made over time, and to address a
number of issues that are further discussed in the
different sections of this evaluation report.There are a number of means by which management
could be strengthened, and deserve attention. A
number of these matters were raised and responded to
in the request for supplementary information made by
IUCN to the State Party, including an extensive
discussion on monitoring plans. There appears to be a
need to strengthen and focus monitoring efforts and it would be beneficial to institute an ongoing means to track management effectiveness,
using methods developed by IUCN through the World
Commission on Protected Areas, and ensure
systematic feedback into improvements in property
management. It would also be desirable to strengthen
the participation of the local herding community within
management activities, noting there is already some
notable engagement. Whilst the good cooperation
between the two reserves and the neighbouring
reserves to the west is noted, this should be
strengthened and institutionalized at a higher level (IUCN Evaluation, 2017)
Management effectiveness
Data Deficient
The property has been inscribed in 2017 and it is too early to assess the managemnt effectiveness of the whole system.
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Data Deficient
The decision has been made in 2017, it is too early to assess any implementation
Boundaries
Some Concern
despite the large size of the
property there would be a case, in view of the high
irreplaceability scores, to include more of the
Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve in the property, and also
to include other neighbouring areas which include
additional areas related to the migration of Tibetan
antelope, or hold other complementary values of equal
or greater significance than the nominated property
(such as the Chang Tang Nature Reserve, which is
reported to be even more significant for Wild yak than
the nominated property). There is a clear
basis to consider the nomination as the first step
towards a larger site.
There are no buffer zone arrangements to the west and north of the property. It wold be important to estabish it.
The designation of the buffer zones
around the sections of the transport corridor within the
property is also problematic. The nomination
excludes the majority of the 4km strip along the road
corridor (with the exception of the areas managed as
migratory corridors) from the nominated property, and
gives these areas buffer zone status. These buffer
areas that are internal to the property are covered by
the same legislation as the rest of the Nature
Reserves.
Sustainable finance
Effective
The national government, Qinghai provincial government and Yushu Perfecture government constantly increased their investment in the nominated property in recent years. (IUCN evaluation mission, 2016)
Staff training and development
Data Deficient
-
Sustainable use
Some Concern
The grazing activities in the site are reducing, but their sustainability should be improved (in relation tho the fencing and the pest control activities).
Education and interpretation programs
Effective
Programs of sensibilisation and education are foreseen in theManagement plan, both for visitors and local people. An offer for Schools is also foreseen in the MAnagement plan. The property has 5 visitor centers.
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
There is a plan for managing the tourists integrated in the management plan, however it would be better to have a larger view ont the potential touristic development and its impacts on the OUV. A more elaborated tourism
strategy is clearly needed and should be developed as
the management plan is reviewed (IUCN Evaluation 2017).
Monitoring
Some Concern
Amonitoring is foreseen in the management plan. It should be the State Party to focussed on threats with a high potential to
impact Outstanding Universal Value such as climate
change, wildlife poaching and the inappropriate
poisoning of the Pika population
Research
Effective
A scientific research plan is included in the management plan and many research studies have been made or are ongoing in the property.
The protection and management system is not fully addressing the threats to the site’s values, resulting in a number of conservation issues. IIt should be broadened to the surrounding protected areas and focussed on the important threats affecting the OUV as well as on the monitoring of the effects of these threads.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
The cooperation withthe surroundings protected areas as wella s with the authorities charged of the management of agriculture, power transport and transportations should be developed.
World Heritage values

exceptional natural beauty

Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
Inscription in 2017: the current state is the state at the inscription.

Exceptional level of endemism and significant habitat for in situ conservation

Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
Inscription in 2017 it is not possible to define a trend
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
Inscription in 2017: a definition of the trend for the values is not possible
Assessment of the current state and trend of other important biodiversity values
Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
Inscription in 2017: it is imppoossible for now to define the trend.

Additional information

Wilderness and iconic features,
Sacred natural sites or landscapes
The tangible attributes of the cultural value of the nominated property consists in sacred mountains and sacred sites, which importance vary from national to local level. Every village has its sacred places and some of them are inside the property and the buffer zone. They are used to pray and consists mainly in natural features like caves, hills or mountains. Other cultural values are related to the traditional husbandry methods and to the intangible values embedded in this exceptional landscape. For many local population Hoh Xil represents the bith of theyr ancestors, for Tibetan population this plain represents the legendary hunting ground of theyr ancestors (“Meat mountain”). Moreover, the birth of the Hoh Xil Nature reserve and the battle of some “heroes” for saving the Tibetan Antelopes are the roots of modern nature protection current in China. Sonam Dhargey, a government officer from Beijing who died protecting the antelopes from poaching the 18th of January 1994 is recognised as a national hero, books a blockbuster movies and many memorials on him are common in China
Access to drinking water
The property is situated at the source of 3 important rivers for the S.E. Asia. Hoh Xil is the area with the highest density of lakes in China. It connects
with the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve, which belongs to the convergent region
of the endorheic lake area of the Changtang Plateau and the water system at thenorth source of the Yangtze River (Nomination File, 2016)
Direct employment,
Tourism-related income
The protected areas are a source of emploiment for gards and rangers for the local communities. The developement of tourism can also be a source of revenue for the local communities.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Habitat change
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Importance for research,
Contribution to education,
Collection of genetic material
The dynamic of the lake and river system in relation to the climat change is an important source for the reserarch. The high level of endemism give an importance to the property for the colelction of genetic material. The nature conservation succes for the protection of ongulates is very important for the education at national and regionale level.

References

References
1 IUCN. (2017). World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation, Qinghai Hoh Xil (China). In: IUCN World Heritage Evaluations 2017, IUCN Evaluations of nominations of natural and mixed properties to the World Heritage List. WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B2. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2017/whc17-41com-inf8B2-en.pdf
2 Ministry of Housing and Urban-rural Development, The People's Republic of China (2016) Nomination file Quinghai Hoh Xil. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1540/documents/