THE AMUR RIVER BASIN

A REFUGE FOR ASIAN WILDERNESS

5 min read
By WWF
© Oleg Kabalik

The Amur basin is a hotspot for free-flowing rivers in Northeast Asia.

Its wild rivers wind their ways through one of the most biologically diverse and best-preserved temperate forests in the world.

In fact, the Amur is the only river in Siberia that runs not from south to north, but from west to east. Thus it forms the natural border between the severe boreal taiga and broadleaf temperate forests.

Together, aquatic and terrestrial landscapes of the Amur basin create a vast area of pristine wilderness, supporting indigenous cultures and abundant biodiversity, including the critically endangered Amur leopard and tiger.

The Amur acts as a natural border between China and Russia. It originates near the sacred site of Burkan Khaldun in northeastern Mongolia, the mountain where Genghis Khan allegedly was born and raised. It flows thousands of kilometers through the untamed wilderness to the Strait of Tartary, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean.

© Frank Marshal

"We can say that not the Ural Mountains but the Amur-Helong River is the border between Europe and Asia, as it serves as the transboundary corridor and bridge between Russia, China and Mongolia, countries with great cultural, political and economic differences in natural resources use and biodiversity conservation."

Dr. Yury Darman, the winner of the MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity 2016








 

The traditional lifestyle of the surrounding area has historically depended on fishing, which is being hurt by water pollution and fish population decline. Additionally, indigenous groups such as the Nanai, Udege, Ulchis and Nivkhs rely on the river and forests to sustain their livelihood.

© M. Didukh

"The Amur River and the Nanai people are one. How can a Nanai live without Amur? We have had our food, clothes and shoes sourced from the river. This is the only way of life for the Nanai people."

Klara Onenko, a member of  the Elder's Association for Indigenous Peoples of Northern Khabarovsk Krai

The rich biodiversity of the Amur Basin includes over 130 species of freshwater fish and seven species of migratory salmon. Swimming among these fish are giants such as the Siberian taimen, the world’s largest salmon, which can grow up to 150 pounds, and the critically endangered Kaluga, the world’s largest freshwater fish. Kaluga can grow to over one ton!

The Amur-Heilong floodplains host up to 95% of the world’s nesting populations of migratory oriental storks, 90% of white-naped cranes, and 65% of migratory red-crowned cranes. This is the only place on the entire planet where one can simultaneously view six species of cranes at once!

For many species, these are the northernmost nesting sites, and for millions of waterfowl the Amur floodplain is the main stopover site for feeding during their
annual migration.

Habitat loss, logging, pollution and illegal wildlife trade threaten the health of the entire Amur-Heilong basin. WWF is working with partners in Russia, China and Mongolia to achieve lasting conservation throughout the region by reducing poaching, curbing unsustainable and illegal logging, and creating protected areas that benefit people, wildlife, and the well-connected rivers that support them all.

© Yury Darman
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