Protecting medicinal plants in China

22 July 2009 | News story

IUCN is working with partners to apply innovative approaches for the protection of medicinal plants in the mountains of the Upper Yangtze ecoregion.

Upper Yangtze ecoregion spans much of the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu, and it is an environmental hotspot. The region is populated with numerous species of plants and animals, many of which are endangered.

In addition, the forests also host important watersheds. Medicinal plants are particularly rich in Upper Yangtze ecoregion and historically, they have played an important part in the indigenous healthcare system.

The recent increase in global demand for medicinal plants has led many local people to extract medicinal plants as a primary way of livelihood. Unfortunately, this has often led to overexploitation of particular species of medicinal plants, causing them to be endangered and in some cases, extinct.

The negative effect could ricochet, leading to a decrease in economic opportunities to local residents and to more species’ endangerment due to their dependence and vice versa on medicinal plants. The Upper Yangtze ecoregion provides habitats to the Giant Panda and the takin.

In 2007, a partnership was formed between Provincial Forestry Departments, traditional Chinese medicine authorities, WWF, TRAFFIC, and IUCN to address the degradation to habitats of medicinal plants in Upper Yangtze ecoregion, reduce the overexploitation of high valuable medicinal plant species in these habitats, and promote improved livelihoods for local people. Running until 2010, this project is funded by the EU-China Biodiversity Programme (ECBP).

One of the outputs of this project is to provide a comprehensive policy and regulatory framework. This output recognizes that in order to implement and enforce relevant policies and provide incentives to producers and marketers to manage medicinal plants in a sustainable way, such framework is essential for government authorities at all level.

This task is currently being completed by the Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Ms. Patti Moore of IUCN acting as consultant. IUCN China Office is working on a literature review regarding “cascade effect” related to medicinal plants and a communication strategy on how to best engage with the relevant stakeholders.

For more information, please contact IUCN China Senior Programme Officer Ms. Wei Juan on weijuan@iucn.org.cn


Bengal Tiger being Released into the wild from a boat in the Sundarbans