Fauna and Flora

There are more than 700 vertebrate species living in Tibet, 123 of which are under the national key protection — a third of the total within China. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is typically home to such rare animals as chirus, kiangs, wild yaks and argolis, it is also where China’s unique, Thorold’s Deer and endangered species such as black-necked cranes are to be found. Of the the million or so terrestrial animal species that have so far been described about 85% are insects. Due to its unique variety of climatic conditions some twenty five per cent of all insect types can be found in Tibet. Of these the Zorotypus sinensis Huang and Zorotypus medoensis Huang are under national protection.

One of China’s five largest forest regions, Tibet has an area of 7,170,000 hectares of virgin forests, with plant species ranging from tundra to tropical. Most densely distributed in the southeast, to be more specific, along the Great Canyon of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, 20% of the plants are peculiar to Tibet and over 6,000 species are classified as higher plants. Except for the economic plants in use of making fabrics, spices, food and paper, etc, Tibet has one of the greatest resources of medicinal herbs, which number up to 1,000, including 300 kinds of rare Tibetan herbs such as cordyceps, ganodermas and snow lotuses.

Nature Reserves

By the end of 2005, nine national and six regional nature reserves have been opened in Tibet, covering a total area of 408,300 hectares , the largest in China.

Directory of National and Regional Natural Reserves in Tibet (by the end of 2005)

Name Grade Location Date of Establishment Focus Protection
Lhalu Wetland Nature Reserve National Lhasa 1999-1-1 Wetland Ecosystem
Middle Yarlung Tsangpo River    Nature Reserve for Black-necked Cranes National Lhundrop County, Lhasa 1993-1-1 Black-necked Cranes and the    Ecosystem of the Habitat
Riwoche Nature Reserve for    Red Deer National Riwoche County,Chamdo 2001-1-1 Red Deer and the Ecosystem    of the Habitat
Markham Nature Reserve for    Yunnan Golden Monkey National Markham County, Chamdo 1993-1-1 Yunnan Golden Monkey and the Ecosystem of the Habitat
Mt. Everest National Shigatse 1988-4-5 Ecosystems of Mountains,    Forests and Deserts
Shantsa Nature Reserve for    Black-necked Cranes National Shantsa County, Nakchu Black-necked Cranes,    Ecosystem of the Highland Wetland
Changtang Nature Reser National Northern Tibet 1993-4- Ecosystem of Desert
Great Canyon of the Yarlung    Tsangpo River National Pemako County, Nyingchi 1985-7-9 Vertical Spectrum of    Tropical Mountain Plants, Rare Fauna and Flora
Dzayul Nature Reserve National Dzayul County, Nyingchi 1985-1-1 Ecosystem of Sub-tropical    Mountain Forests
Lake Namtso Regional Nakchu 2001-1-1 Wild Animals, Ecosystem of    Wetland
Shigatse Karst Nature    Reserve Regional Shigatse City 2000-1-2 Karst Topography
Zanda Clay Forest Regional Zanda County, Ngari 2000-1-2 Clay Forest
Ngamring Nature Reserve for    Terrestrial Heat Fountains Regional Ngamring County, Shigatse 2000-1-2 Thermal springs
Pagche Nature Reserve for    Huge Cypresses Regional Pagche Village, Nyingchi 1985-1-1 Huge Cypresses, Forest    Ecosystem
Kongpo Nature Reserve Regional Nyingchi 2003-1-1 Forest Ecosystem

Mineral and Energy Resources

Tibet boasts the largest reserves of chromite in China, covering a total area of 2,500 sq m and totaling approximately to 10 million tons. Meanwhile, in 1999 an abundance of lithium carbonate was discovered and the Zabuye Salt Lake in the Shigatse Region has become not only the largest lithium base in China but the world’s second richest salt lake brine resource. So far over 100 varieties of mineral have been found in Tibet, 11 of which, including conundrum, copper, boron and isinglass, etc., rank as the national top five reserves. The potential for other minerals such as gold, silver, lead and zinc is prospected.

At an average altitude of 4,000m, Tibet has the nation’s greatest potential for solar energy, one of the top global locations for such power. A network of rivers crisscrossing the country theoretically provides a huge water energy resource of 200 million kilowatts, nearly 30% of the national total; together with an annual wind energy resource of 93 billion kilowatt-hours thereby ranking Tibet as the seventh in all China. Yangpachen, China largest geothermal energy station, supplies 45% of electricity required by Lhasa and the total geothermal energy resource in Tibet covers 80% of that in China.