Environment Bureau Environmental Protection Department ENVIRONMENT HONG KONG 2008
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10 nature Conservation

Feature Article
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To conserve natural resources and the bio-diversity of Hong Kong in a sustainable manner, taking into account social and economic considerations, for the benefit of the present and future generations of the community.


Highlights in 2007
  • The pilot scheme for Management Agreements (MAs) was reviewed and support was obtained from the Environment and Conservation Fund to continue the scheme. Two MAs, in Long Valley and Fung Yuen, were approved under the new arrangement.

As a small territory with a large population, Hong Kong must work extra hard to balance the demand for land with the need to protect our natural resources. We have many places of high ecological value and the Government has been acting to protect these against unnecessary encroachment or incompatible uses. The New Nature Conservation Policy, unveiled in 2004, provides a framework for green groups and landowners to work together to protect sensitive sites on private land. The first batch of pilot projects under the policy was completed in 2007 and proved to be a success, paving the way for future co-operation on conservation activities.

Black-faced spoonbills are sighted in Deep Bay in winter.

Black-faced spoonbills are sighted in Deep Bay in winter.

Managing sensitive areas

Some 40 per cent of Hong Kong land is protected country park area and the Government has acted to conserve sensitive sites under its control. However, the situation on private land is more complicated, given the need to balance property rights with ecological protection. The New Nature Conservation Policy strikes a balance by providing incentives to landowners to safeguard sensitive sites. One initiative, Management Agreements, is aimed mainly at conservation of these sites while another, Public-Private Partnership, allows limited development alongside conservation activities.

Under Management Agreements (MAs), non-government organisations can apply for funding that can be used to provide landowners with financial incentives for conserving sensitive sites. A two-year pilot scheme for three MA projects, which together received more than $4 million in funding, ended in 2007 and the results, described below, were very positive. The Government has subsequently secured approval from the Environment and Conservation Fund (ECF) to continue to provide funding support for the Scheme. Two projects at Long Valley and Fung Yuen will commence in 2008.

Public-Private Partnerships Pilot Scheme is more complex. They allow applicants to develop less ecologically sensitive areas of a site while committing to long-term conservation management of the remainder. Each application requires careful examination to ensure sensitive sites are protected, land use is compatible with conservation and the proper infrastructure is in place. Six applications have been made to the pilot scheme for Public-Private Partnership and the Government will make a decision on them in 2008.

Protecting bird life in Long Valley

Two of the three pilot MA projects were in Long Valley, an important habitat for birds and butterflies in Hong Kong. One involved the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, which formed a partnership with farmers to increase the valley's biodiversity. The other involved the Conservancy Association, which focused on developing a strategy for agricultural and conservation management at its site.

Converted shallow water habitat in Long Valley.

Converted shallow water habitat in Long Valley.

Rice planting has been re-introduced to the valley.

Rice planting has been re-introduced to the valley.
The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society was interested in improving conditions for the valley's birds. It concentrated on adapting or maintaining land uses to ensure there were sufficient nesting and feeding grounds for birds. Fallow wet agricultural plots were converted to shallow water habitats and wet agricultural lands were managed to attract wetland-associated species such as snipes, sandpipers and plovers. On dry land, planting was carried out on farmland margins and fallow land to attract pipits, buntings and munias. The society also re-introduced the planting of rice, water chestnuts and Chinese arrowhead to enhance biodiversity.

A systematic monitoring programme was established to study the effects of the project. During the course of the two-year pilot scheme, a number of new species were recorded including Rosy Pipit (a new record for Hong Kong), Great Bittern, Pied Avocet, Japanese Thrush, Brown-headed Thrush, Intermediate Egret, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike and Pale Thrush. Eco-tours were also organised for the public, students and the media. Volunteers had a key role to play either as eco-tour guides or in carrying out conservation measures.

The Conservancy Association was interested in preventing habitat deterioration and, where possible, enhancing habitat diversity. Formerly abandoned farmlands were revived as wet agricultural land or marshes under the management of farmers. Environment-friendly practices such as organic farming were introduced. In one case they successfully negotiated with the owner of one of Hong Kong's last water flea farms to conserve the site.

The University of Hong Kong was recruited to conduct a food web study and look at the relationship between habitat types, management measures, food availability and bird utilisation. The Conservancy Association also organised tours of the site and involved local villagers in the work.

The two projects have demonstrated that thoughtful management of sensitive areas, with the co-operation of landowners and local villagers, can bring a net gain to the environment. In 2007 the two proponents joined forces and made a joint application to the ECF to continue their work in Long Valley. The funding was approved and will enable them to extend the scope and range of their conservation efforts so the benefits can be brought to other neglected sites.

Organic lotus farming (above) and a revived shallow water habitat in Long Valley.

Organic lotus farming (above) and a revived shallow water habitat in Long Valley.

Establishing a butterfly haven in Fung Yuen

The third pilot Management Agreement focused on conservation of butterflies in Fung Yuen valley, Tai Po. The Tai Po Environmental Association was keen to improve and protect the valley's Site of Special Scientific Interest and developed a conservation programme with that in mind.

Volunteers plant tree seedings on a hill slope of Fung Yuen valley.

Volunteers plant tree seedings on a hill slope of Fung Yuen valley.

Troides helena is one of the butterfly species found in Fung Yuen.

Troides helena is one of the butterfly species found in Fung Yuen.

The association rented private land in Fung Yuen to establish a butterfly reserve. This was actively managed through site patrols, the removal of the Mikania weed, planting of larval food plants and nectar plants, and the raising of larvae for release. The association also planted tree seedlings on a nearby hill slope.

An important goal was to enhance species diversity. Monthly butterfly surveys were conducted by the Hong Kong Lepidopterists' Society and the Chinese University of Hong Kong and quarterly bird surveys by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society. In 2006, 123 butterfly species and 71 bird species were recorded, and in 2007, four new butterfly species and one new bird species were added. The association is keen to share the information it is collecting and has held more than 70 workshops and launched a website containing the site's ecological database (www.fungyuen.org).

As with Long Valley, the Fung Yuen valley project will continue with funding from the ECF. These projects have already helped to conserve more than 100 000 square metres of land in co-operation with landowners. The hope is that they will inspire others to follow suit and preserve more of Hong Kong's ecologically valuable sites.

Further information on Nature Conservation

The Environmental Protection Department is responsible for establishing nature policy while the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) is responsible for implementing policies. The AFCD has a diverse range of activities covering such things as conserving marine and land-based habitats, enforcing conservation laws, conducting regular ecological surveys, monitoring the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site, protecting endangered plants and animals and promoting public awareness of nature conservation. Details can be seen at its website, www.afcd.gov.hk.

Chinese White Dolphins in Hong Kong waters.

Chinese White Dolphins in Hong Kong waters.

Looking Ahead
Looking Ahead
  • A decision will be made on six applications received under the Pilot Scheme for Public-Private Partnership that allows applicants to develop less ecologically sensitive areas of a site while committing to long-term conservation management of the remainder.
  • Legislation to extend the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity to Hong Kong will be prepared and stakeholders consulted on the draft.