Ecoregion in danger – Yangtze River, China

  1. 1.  The Yangtze River and lakes ”“ a Global Ecoregion.

The Yangtze River is also known as Chang Jiang. It is a tremendously important river for China as is referred as to the longest river not only in China but in Asia. It is also recognized as a global ecoregion and its 3,91 miles length allows it to occupy the third position among the longest rivers in the world. The Yangtze River feeds a lot of lakes which all together make one solid water resource with Poyang Lake as the Yangtze’s largest lake. The Yangtze River and lakes are of a great importance for China due to the fact that historically is has proved to be the cultural and economic catalyst as it united different part of China.

The Yangtze River is in the Global 200 hot list of ecoregions of Earth. This is primary due to the fact that the river and lakes demonstrate an amount of rare species such as mammals, birds and fish. Owing to its age, the Yangtze River and lakes became the home for some species that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Among all the species present in the waterfowl of the river and lakes two require special attention: the Yangtze finless porpoise and the Chinese river dolphin. A lot of efforts have been put to preserve these two mammals; nevertheless, it is very hard to eliminate such factor as devastation of the original habitat by the human factor. These mammals face pollution and suffer greatly from a large amount of fishing boats.

As it has been mentioned before, the Yangtze ecoregion is the home for numerous species, plants and even bird which depend on the ecoregion. These facts convert this water resource into a vast ecoregion that requires protection and special projects of saving its species.

  1. 2.  What is a Yangtze finless porpoise?

Yangtze finless porpoise (river pig) belongs to the freshwater population of the Yangtze River. It can also be found in the marine waters of Asia but only in the Yangtze River it lives in the fresh water.  It can grow to the size of 6.56 feet and does not have such porpoise’s peculiarity as the dorsal fin. The weight of a Yangtze finless porpoise can get to the mark of 100 pounds.  This is the reason it is called “finless”. The Yangtze finless porpoise has large flippers, small denticles on its back. These denticles are a substitute of the dorsal fin (Jefferson, 2000). Adult Yangtze finless porpoises are of a light grey color, while the infants are almost black.

The diet of the Yangtze finless porpoise is rather impressive as it takes from six month to a year for them to intake solid food. The diet of the Yangtze finless porpoise generally contains cephalopods which are found in various fishes such as squids, octopus, cuttlefish, shrimp and other.  The Yangtze finless porpoise cannot be called an active mammal as ordinarily it demonstrates a rather passive behavior without excessive movements. Nevertheless, there is a process that increases their activity and even makes them physically active ”“ this process is feeding. Feeding stimulate their activity and may even make them jump over the water’s surface. The Yangtze finless porpoise also spits water from the mouth while the process of feeding goes on.  It is especially interesting that sometimes The Yangtze finless porpoises make up hunting groups in order to get food (Parsons, 1997). One peculiarity as for the finless porpoise diet in the waters of Yangtze is that they are believed to consume some water plants especially in the moments when they are forced out to move to the lakes.

It takes almost six years for a male finless porpoise to reach sexual maturity. It takes almost nine years for the female species to reach it. The mating cycle of the Yangtze finless porpoise occurs in April and May and may last until October. It results in a ten or eleven month of gestation (Jefferson, 2000). The infants stay with their mothers up to the age of fifteen month.  When a little Yangtze finless porpoise is born it has the overage length of eighty centimeters. Reproduction occurs when the Yangtze finless porpoises make large groups up to ten species. It is interesting to note that the social structure of the Yangtze finless porpoises is not very developed as it does not have considerably solid social units. The most observed social unit is the mother with a calf, which may last from six month to a year and a half.

During the day time the Yangtze finless porpoise make on long and several short dips into the water. At night it rests and restores its strength. It is a wonderful and beautiful mammal which nowadays has faces a set of problems dealing with its survival in the waters of the Yangtze River and lakes. Active boating over the river changes not only its swimming and resting patterns and causes its migration within the Yangtze water resources.


  1. 3.  The main threats for the mammal

The Yangtze finless porpoise is not a very active mammal; therefore, it is almost invisible for the boats fishing all over the Yangtze River. Even the process of the finless porpoise echolocation is inaudible for people (Parsons, 1997).

Contemporary Yangtze finless porpoise is nowadays under the gander of extinction since 2006.  According to the last researches of 2006 there are around one thousand hour hundred species worldwide. As for the Yangtze region is still a home for around nine hundred Yangtze finless porpoises. One of the reasons of the decreasing amount of the finless porpoise in the Yangtze ecoregion is impressive traffic on the river and the dredging plans. Due to its impact the population of the Yangtze finless porpoise reveals a seven percent decrease annually. As the traffic over the river grows annually, the Yangtze finless porpoise is forced to move to the lakes. This puts under the extinction threat not only the Yangtze finless porpoise and the Chinese river dolphin but other species. As the original habitat is destroyed, the Yangtze finless porpoise experience in surviving due to the lack of food. This problem has the river traffic as a precondition as the large amount of boats “deactivate” the echolocation process of the Yangtze finless porpoise used to locate food and to avoid dangerous objects. The river gets polluted by nitrogen and ammonia which makes the fish die. As the result the Yangtze finless porpoise does not only face problem in location the food but its actual shortage.

One major factor of stimulating the extinction of the Yangtze finless porpoise as well as other species is the Three Gorges Dam. It negatively affects the flora and fauna of the Yangtze ecoregion It destroys the habitat of the Yangtze finless porpoise as the flashing capacity decreases and the rate of pollution increases (Lu, 2006). Human activity immensely influences the finless porpoise and the environmental contaminant becomes the most threatening product of such activity (Jefferson, 2000). As the result the reproductive capability of the Yangtze finless porpoise is damaged and the species cannot stand the pollution anymore. The only hope for the recovery of the Yangtze finless porpoise is aquarium breeding as it is obvious that China is not willing let the porpoise issue influence its intense economy model in which the Yangtze River plays a very important role. This leaves the Yangtze finless porpoise under the threat of extinction in case on inability to breed it in artificial conditions.

  1. 4.  Conclusion

The ecoregion of the Yangtze River and lakes is in a great danger and the future of the Yangtze finless porpoise and other unique species depends on the ability of humans to find a “golden middle” between the human activity factors and consequences and the safe environment for these mammals. The threat that brings the Three Gorges Dam may eventually lead to the extinction of the species that are a part of the ecosystem. Artificial aquariums for breeding are not the best way out of the situation. It the situation does not change this may result into an environmental disaster.

Leave a Reply