China now considers mangrove areas to be wetlands rather than forest land. The change, which was apparent in the Third National Land Survey published in August 2021, has only recently been picked up by media, including Eco China.
It means that mangrove protection is no longer governed by national forest laws and regulations but by the wetlands protection law, which took effect in June 2022.
The change aligns with China’s evolving approach to mangrove conservation. Forestry authorities used to categorise mangroves as a “forestry resource” rather than an “ocean ecosystem.” Restoration efforts primarily involved planting mangroves, with success measured by planted area. Recent years have seen a shift towards emphasising the “comprehensive protection of mangrove ecosystems,” as outlined in a 2020-2025 action plan for mangrove restoration. That plan also reduced the planted area target.
Nevertheless, a report published on 20 September by the government of Guangxi, a region rich in mangroves, highlights challenges in protecting these ecosystems under the current wetlands protection law. The report statest that the law lacks clear legal penalties for logging or damage to mangrove forests, which may lead to new issues.
It also underscores discrepancies between the local regulations on wetland and mangrove protections, published in 2014 and 2018, and the latest overarching national legislation. Guangxi has begun efforts to revise its local regulations on wetland protection to address these disparities.
Furthermore, the Guangxi government recommends that the local authorities responsible for natural resources and forestry conduct annual surveys of wetlands throughout the region. These surveys should “encompass wetland area, biodiversity, protection, utilisation, and establish an information-sharing mechanism”.
Read China Dialogue’s report on how to make China’s wetlands protection law work.