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Amur-Heilong forests

Floodplains of the Amur river.
Location: North-east Asia – where Mongolia, China and Russia meet
Size: About 1.85m sq km
River, forest, wetland, grassland
Iconic species:
About 130 freshwater fish species, more than 6,000 plant species, over 600 types of bird, and about 200 different mammals
People: Around 75 million

About Amur-Heilong

The Amur river (known as the Heilong in China) flows for over 4,000km, starting in Mongolia and forming the border between north-east China (Manchuria) and south-east Russia (Siberia). Around it is a vast region of grasslands and forests.

A lot of this area is still largely pristine, but the Amur-Heilong ecoregion is facing serious pressure from rapidly growing economies and human populations, especially in China.

Discover how you can help protect this amazing place.

Why Amur-Heilong matters

The area has some of the world’s best-preserved and most biodiverse temperate forests.

It’s also home to about 400 rare Amur (or Siberian) tigers, as well as the last remaining wild population of critically-endangered Amur leopards – whose numbers may be as low as 70.

Tigers and leopards are top predators, which means they play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of species within their habitat.

This in turn influences the condition of the forest and the overall ecosystem – which supplies people and nature with food, fresh water and lots of other resources.

Wildlife in Amur-Heilong

For an area that can have very harsh winters there’s an amazing range of wildlife here.

The forest ecosystem provides shelter for wildlife and the Korean pine – known as the ‘tree of life’ – provides food in the form of pine nuts. Wild ginseng, long treasured for its medicinal uses, flourishes under its canopy.

Threats to Amur-Heilong

Heihe, Heilongjiang Province, China

Industrial development

This is especially a problem in China, where rapid economic growth has brought big government investment in development such as road and rail infrastructure, and irrigation. Forests are under particular pressure from the global demand for wood and paper, as well as frequent fires (both natural and man-made).

For a long time the Amur has been one of the world’s longest undammed rivers, but hydropower dams are increasing in this area to meet rising electricity demand. Dams alter natural river flows and threaten wildlife.

Temperate rainforest Kaghan Valley, Himalayas

Climate change

The Amur-Heilong is naturally prone to flooding in the wet season and drought and wild fires in the dry season.

But weather patterns are changing with increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, which will affect the habitats and the species that rely on them.

Poaching and illegal wildlife trade

Some of the region’s rarest animals – such as the Amur leopard and tiger – are most at risk from poaching for the illegal trade in their body parts.

Their beautiful coats are particularly sought after, as well as their bones, which are still misguidedly and illegally used in some places for medicinal purposes.

Also, many populations of the Amur leopard and tigers’ prey have declined because of hunting.

Amur tiger  resting in a water puddle in the forest near Khor river. Amur region.

What we’re doing to help protect Amur-Heilong

WWF is working with governments and other partners in the region to look after the long-term future of the Amur-Heilong area and the species it supports.

Our Amur-Heilong ecoregion programme was established in the Russian Far East in 1999 and we expanded into China in 2006.

We’re supporting work in the region to help protect the Amur leopard and tiger.

Amur leopard parenting cub. Camera trap image.

Expanding protected habitats

We’re helping to establish safe and connected habitats for Amur leopards and tigers so they have secure places to live, roam and breed.

Thanks to huge combined efforts, the network of protected areas has been increased by around 5,000 sq km in this region in the past few years. Our aim is to increase this further over the next few years.

Sumatran tiger walks past WWF

Wildlife monitoring

We work with the Russian and Chinese governments to support tiger and leopard surveys.

And we’ve provided training in wildlife surveying and monitoring skills, including DNA sampling and installation of video/photo camera traps to track movements and numbers of big cats and their prey.

Sniffer dogs are specially trained to locate smuggled tiger parts - helping WWF and TRAFFIC stop illegal wildlife trade

Tackling poaching and wildlife crime

We work with TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) to investigate and crack down on illegal trade in Amur tiger and leopard products.

And we're helping strengthen measures to tackle wildlife crime, and to help reduce the demand for illegal wildlife products.

Deciduous forest, Amur region

Tackling unsustainable and illegal logging

With the help of our Global Forest & Trade Network, we’re working locally and internationally to support trade between companies committed to responsible forestry.

In 2010 we helped to persuade the Russian government to ban logging of Korean pine. Some local communities now harvest pine nuts as an alternative, sustainable source of income.

How you can help protect Amur-Heilong