China’s megacity Shenzhen enjoys fruits of ecological conservation

By Lyu Shaogang, People’s Daily

Nestled amidst towering skyscrapers and bustling streets, the Guangdong Neilingding-Futian National Nature Reserve, located in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province, is the only one of its kind located in the heart of a city, offering a tranquil view adorned with lush mangrove trees and graceful birds in flight.

Shenzhen, a densely populated megacity in south China’s Guangdong province, boasts rich biodiversity. It has recorded 2,218 species of wild vascular plants, 651 species of native vertebrates, and serves as a wintering ground for approximately 100,000 migratory birds annually.

In 2022, Shenzhen was awarded the title of “Biodiversity Charming City.” In September 2023, the world’s first international mangrove center was established there.

How can a megacity effectively balance environmental protection and economic development to achieve harmonious coexistence between human and nature? See how Shenzhen has actively pursued a development path that safeguards urban ecological resources and protects urban biodiversity.

In January 2024, a Chinese white dolphin was spotted in Shenzhen’s Yantian port, attracting significant attention.

Chinese white dolphins have high standards for water quality, and their frequent sightings in Shenzhen’s waters demonstrate the effectiveness of the city’s ecological governance.

It’s not just the white dolphins. In the Guangdong Neilingding-Futian National Nature Reserve, the expansive mangrove forests provide favorable habitats for a variety of bird species and have become an important wintering ground for migratory birds.

The nature reserve is home to 353 species of higher plants, including 20 species of mangroves from nine families. It has recorded 272 bird species, including 60 species under key state protection such as the black-faced spoonbill.

“With a comprehensive system of nature reserves, including marine areas, wetlands, and forests, Shenzhen has effectively protected its most representative ecological resources,” said an official with the municipal planning and natural resources bureau of Shenzhen.

According to the official, Shenzhen is home to 25 different types of nature reserves, including 23 on land and two in the sea.

In 2005, Shenzhen established the basic ecological control line, encompassing half of the city’s land area. Based on this, approximately 24 percent of the land area and 19 percent of the marine area were included in the ecological protection red lines to maximize ecological protection efforts.

Shenzhen’s Dapeng New District has incorporated 73.5 percent of its total land area into the ecological control line since its establishment. Today, embraced by the sea on three sides, Dapeng New District boasts a forest coverage of over 77 percent and is recognized as the most biodiverse area in Shenzhen.

To strengthen biodiversity conservation, it is crucial to protect, restore, and manage ecological resources in line with local conditions.

“The Maozhou River was black and smelly,” said a resident surnamed Li who has been living in Shenzhen’s Bao’an District for over a decade.

Today, the water quality of the Maozhou River has improved, thanks to the upgrading and renovation of old pipeline networks, increasing supervision over unauthorized discharges from companies, and regular monitoring of water bodies. As a result, the river’s biodiversity continues to flourish, with the long-lost blue-tailed shrimp and endangered aquatic ferns coming back.

“While advancing urban development, we collect and protect plant resources, and when appropriate, we help them return to nature and expand their populations,” said Wang Hui, deputy head of the Fairylake Botanical Garden in Shenzhen.

Through ex-situ conservation, the garden has protected 440 plant species under key state protection, as well as 757 rare and endangered plant species.

To create a more favorable habitat for a variety of species, it is important to build social consensus and engage the public in biodiversity conservation efforts.

On the shores of the Dapeng Bay in Shenzhen, a group of people has been dedicated to coral planting, protection, and restoration since 2012.

Wang Xiaoyong, secretary general of the Shenzhen Dapeng Coral Conservation Volunteer Federation in Dapeng New District, has been involved in coral planting for over 10 years.

Through its collaboration with government departments, the federation has established two pilot coral protection areas at sea, successfully planted over 6,000 corals and rescued over 500 fragments of damaged corals in Daya Bay in Shenzhen.

These efforts highlight Shenzhen’s commitment to promoting social participation in ecological conservation.

In recent years, Shenzhen has made significant efforts to build itself into a “city of nature education,” hosting a range of nature education activities to promote public engagement in conservation efforts. The city has 23 nature schools, 49 nature education centers, and 200,000 environmental volunteers.


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