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Shennongjia Biosphere Reserve, China

The Shennongjia Biosphere Reserve belongs to the east branch of the Dabashan Mountains which connect the Tibetan Plateau in West China with the Yangze plain in East China. The area covers high elevation differences from the lowest valley (420 meters) to the highest peak (3,106 meters above sea level) and therefore offers a wide spectrum of vegetation zones. Forests are protected and, with various species of vascular plants and the occurrence of a golden monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) population, the biosphere reserve is considered to be a ‘Green Gene Pool’ of China. Ecological tourism is the main economic industry in the reserve, in which women are mostly engaged.

Designation date: 1990

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Regional network: East Asian Biosphere Reserve Network (EABRN)

Ecosystem-based network:




    Surface : 70,467 ha

    • Core area(s) : 38,425 ha
    • Buffer zone(s) : 9,380 ha
    • Tansition zone(s): 22,662 ha

    Location: 31°31'37"N -110°07'44"E

    Administrative authorities

    Shennongjia Nature Reserve
    Chulin Road, Muyu Township, Shennongjia Forest Area
    Hubei Province 442421

    Tel.: +86 719-3452303


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    Ecological Characteristics

    Shennongjia Biosphere Reserve is located in the transition area from the northern subtropical zone to the warm temperate zone and it is also the transition from the Central China hills to the West China mountains. It is therefore the crossing point where a wide variety of species gather. In the reserve the forest is vast and dense, river valleys are deep, and there are a lot of gullies and ravines. The terrain is complex and the climate changes significantly with the altitude. The unique geographical and climate conditions make Shennongjia home to a rich variety of species. According to available data, there are 3,239 species (including 275 variations) of vascular plants in 1,027 genuses of 236 families. Among them, 25 species are national key species for protection. There are also 493 species of vertebrates and 4,143 species of insects, 73 of which are national key species for protection. The reserve hosts a wide variety of wildlife species under prioritized protection. There are 26 species of plants and 73 species of animal under national protection, as well as 42 endemic species.

    Located at the eastern fringe of the evergreen and deciduous oak-type China Armand pine area, its natural flora fall into six types: Coniferous forest, broad-leaved forest, bamboo grove, bushes, grass, and marsh. The characteristics of the flora are with complicated components and multiple sources. Shennongjia is also the eastern most habitat of Sichuan golden monkey.

    Socio-economic characteristics

    Agricultural areas concentrate on the mountain feet (up to 1,600 meters above sea level) whereas tea plantations can extend up to 2,100 meters above sea level. There are 6,537 residents in the area (2013). Due to the conservation function, the development of agriculture, fishery, animal husbandry, and forestry was restricted. Currently, ecological tourism is the main industry and strongly boosted the social economy within the biosphere reserve, as well as residents’ income. As to other economic development initiatives, mining enterprises are gradually being closed and enterprises are encouraged to start planting and processing green food.

    There are eight research and monitoring institutions established in the reserve, with ultrashort-wave radio station. Up to 60% of the local residents are involved in biosphere conservation by ways that includes: 1. direct participation in patrols for resource conservation, 2. serving as assistant farmer households, 3. serving as farmer supervisors, 4. participation in ecological tourism services, 5. indirect participation in ecological tourism service. Women are mostly engaged in ecological tourism services, while men mostly do the patrols or work as supervisors and assistants. However, located in an economically under-developed region, young people’s participation in the reserve needs to be improved.


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    Last updated: July 2019