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Ecological Conservation, Cultural Preservation, and a Bridge between: the Journey of Shanshui Conservation Center in the Sanjiangyuan Region, Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China

Xiaoli Shen, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park
Jiaxin Tan, Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies, Sweden


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The Sanjiangyuan region is located on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in western China and encompasses the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow and Mekong rivers. It is also home to 300,000 Tibetan pastoralists. The area is characterized by its significant ecological service, unique culture, and fragile ecosystems, and has undergone a rapid degradation over the past several decades. Traditional Tibetan culture offers alternative knowledge and perspectives that facilitate the environmental conservation throughout the region, but have yet to be recognized or adopted by the Chinese government. Beginning in 2007, the local environmental NGO, Shanshui Conservation Center, has initiated a journey to bridge Tibetan communities with the outside scientific community, mainstream society and policy-makers with the aim of advocating integrating traditional Tibetan practices in conservation actions in the Sanjiangyuan region. Through the conservation concession program initiated and facilitated by Shanshui Conservation Center in collaboration with Conservation International, the Sanjiangyuan nature reserve turned over the management of some reserve lands to local communities after a conservation agreement with clear management plans and monitoring indictors was made between the two parties. The trial and demonstration of the conservation concession program successfully led to the adoption of community-based conservation models in state level conservation policy in 2011. We demonstrate as a bridging organization, Shanshui Conservation Center plays the role of cultural translator to promote the understanding and appreciation of traditional Tibetan culture in conservation in western China.

Key words

conservation concession; grassland; traditional ecological knowledge; traditional Tibetan practices; western China

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087