Biodiv Sci ›› 2020, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (12): 1459-1468.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2020259

• Special Feature: Biodiversity Conservation along the Yellow River • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The status, distribution patterns, and conservation gap for bird diversity in the Yellow River basin, China

Fei Duan, Sheng Li*()   

  1. School of Life Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871
  • Received:2020-06-29 Accepted:2020-09-28 Online:2020-12-20 Published:2020-12-15
  • Contact: Sheng Li


The Yellow River basin has diverse geographical conditions, climatic conditions, vegetation types, and human activities, all of which shapes the biodiversity patterns for different taxa across this region. Here, we collected bird occurrence data in the Yellow River basin during 2009-2019. We combined data from the range layers published by the IUCN and BirdLife International with 35,026 field observation records (i.e., birdwatching records from the China Bird Report, eBird, and GBIF, camera-trapping records and other field records). We identified 662 bird species (accounting for 45.81% of the total number of bird species in China) occurring in the Yellow River basin, belonging to 23 orders and 83 families. Passeriformes has the highest number of species (384, accounting for 46.83% of the species of this order in China), followed by Charadriiformes (67 species, 50.00%) and Anseriformes (39 species, 72.22%). We identified 121 species that are considered threatened. From these species, 37 are listed by the IUCN Red List and 52 species are listed by the Red List of China’s Vertebrates as threatened (i.e., CR, EN or VU), and 22 species are listed as Class-I and 73 species as Class-II national key protected species in China. Birds listed as threatened were typically characterized by having a terrestrial lifestyle, large body size, high trophic level, and migrated long distances. Total species richness was observed on a gradient decreasing from south to north. The southern upriver areas of plateaus and mountains in Sichuan, Gansu, and Shaanxi had the highest species richness. However, threatened bird richness showed a different spatial pattern with hotspots primarily located in the middle and lower reaches of Yellow River, especially on the lowlands near the delta. We identified 48 national nature reserves in the Yellow River basin, covering a total of 504 bird species (76.13% of the region), among which 92 were threatened (76.03%). These national nature reserves were mostly located in the upper reaches of the Yellow River. The coverage of threatened species in the lower reaches was low, which indicates a major gap on protected area coverage. We propose the need to strengthen the construction of protected areas in the middle and lower reaches, specifically for the protection of threatened birds. To conserve the rich bird diversity under high-intensity land use in the Yellow River basin, an integrative framework with diversified conservation strategies is critically needed.

Key words: Yellow River basin, bird diversity, threatened birds, distribution pattern, species inventory, protected area, conservation gap