A Delicate Balance: Riches, Threats, and Conservation of the Amur Basin

Feb 10

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 6.20.58 PM

By Amber Valenti

We’ve taken a look at biodiversity as it sits across the planet.  We’ve analyzed it. And we’ve come up with 19 epicenters of biodiversity. And these are places you’d probably pick off the top of your head like the Amazon, Congo, Galapagos islands.  But there are others places that aren’t as well known and the Amur Basin is one of them.

- Darron Collins, WWF Amur Program

The Amur-Heilong Watershed is nothing short of a biodiversity gold mine. It supports the largest salmon species (the Taimen), the largest freshwater fish (The Kaluga Sturgeon), exotic species such as the Oriental White Stork, Siberian Tiger and Amur Leopard, enormous wetland ecosystems, the best preserved Eurasian grassland in the world, and the most biologically diverse temperate rainforest in the world.

So why is this precious place not a household name like the Amazon, Congo, or Galapagos Islands?  We have no idea.  But relative obscurity has no doubt greatly helped to protect these fragile, precious ecosystems. For those who toil to protect this watershed, it is a constant labor of love and an extremely delicate balance.

So many things about the Amur River Basin inspire me to learn more, go farther, fight harder, and dig deeper for the amazing treasures still left on this planet. Below are just a few of them.

Amur River Facts:

1) Length: The 9th longest river in the world at over 4,000 Kilometers.

2) Damns: There are none!  Not a single one! In fact this river is the longest free flowing river in the eastern hemisphere.

3) Headwaters: The Amur river begins in Mongolia near the sacred mountain Burkan Khaldun, the birthplace of Ghengis Khan.

4) Biodiversity: The 15 terrestrial and 7 freshwater ecosystems of the Amur Watershed support at least 6,000 species of vascular plants, 600 birds, 130 freshwater fish, and about 200 mammals.


1) Habitat Destruction: Resource extraction, local population growth, international demands for resources, and changing weather patterns threaten the health of the Amur-Heilong Basin from top to bottom.

2) Illegal Wildlife Trade: Despite recent declines, there is still a booming wildlife trade in the Amur River Basin for items such as Bear gall bladder and Tiger paw.

3) Hydropower: A number of tributaries of the Amur are already blocked by hydropower projects and others have been proposed, even on the mainstem of the Amur.

4) Pollution: The lower stretches of the Amur are hugely impacted by pollution from industry and agriculture.

5) Over Fishing: Fish resources are widely overexploited, compounding the effects of habitat destruction.


1) Mongolian River Outfitters: A collaborative organization conserving fragile headwater habitat and protecting precious Taimen from overfishing.

2) Wild Salmon Center: Along with their partner Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation (KWF), they promote conservation of the lower Amur Salmon Ecosystems.

3) Green Longjiang: A Chinese organization working to increase eco-conservation and public environmental education of the Amur-Heilongjiang River Basin.

4) World Wildlife Fund (WWF): They have worked on many campaigns in the Amur Basin promoting sustainable forestry, ensuring the rivers natural flow, protecting the rivers headwaters, restoring habitat, protecting key species, and stopping wildlife crime.

5) So many others: This includes International Rivers, Pacific Environment, and countless local communities and dedicated individuals that make conservation of this river basin possible.

  • WWF Amur River Basin WWF Amur River Basin


For more information on the Amur Basin go to the WWF Amur Region Website.