Chinese Scientists Find Extinct Species in Buddhist Ponds

From Microcosm Aquarium Explorer

Kunming temple.jpg
So-called Dragon Pond in ancient Buddhist Temple at Kunming. Wikimedia Commons
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Pond koi, related to endangered Chinese Cyprinids. Stan Shebs/GNU Wiki Commons

Endemic fishes remain only in monks' fish pools

Editor: Du Guodong, Chinese Academy of Sciences

BEIJING, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Yunnan Province, a wildlife paradise in southwest China, is the native habitat of many alpine fishes, including some rare species never found anywhere else in the world today.

Due to a variety of reasons, either natural or anthropic, however, the natural endowment in biodiversity is now in peril, and many rare piscine species are at the brink of extinction.

Facing such a grim situation, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ) recently lodged an appeal, calling for energized efforts to preserve the pristine eco-systems for the survival of the endemic fishes in Buddhism temples of the region.

Biodiversity Hotspots in Decline

Yunnan Province is located on a mountain-locked plateau dotted by a galaxy of freshwater lakes, including nine large-sized ones. An exceptional fecundity of biodiversity has been nurtured in these lakes thanks to their unique geological origin and plateau climate. Home to 96 aboriginal fish species, including 60 endemic ones, these alpine lakes becomes hot-spots for freshwater biodiversity studies.

These species are of significance in both terms of economic and ecologic values, stressed the experts. First, the majority of them used to be cash fish in the region. Second, the species play a critical role in maintaining the local hydro-ecological balance and become a mainstay for keeping the integrity of the whole world's biodiversity.

Just because of this, both the Global Environment Foundation and the World Bank have made many generous donations for promoting the research into the local alpine bio-diversity and its protection.

The habitat loss of the lakes, which is caused by the introduction of alien species, over-exploitation, water pollution and the efforts to reclaim farmland from lake, has endangered survival of the precious species. Some of them, for instance Cyprinus yilongensis, a species of ray-finned fish in the Cyprinidae family only found in China, have even been extinct.

"Doomsday Imminent without Protection

Only a very few number of individuals of a small number of the precious species are preserved in some Buddhism shrines. They are the last chance to rescue them from the imminent doomsday, emphasized experts.

According to long-term studies by a research team led by Prof. Yang Junxing with the CAS Kunming Institute of Zoology, all of the 25 aborigine fish species in the water body of Dianchi Lake have gone extinct, only a few individuals of five species are surviving in some dragon ponds of the temples.

Thanks to long-standing efforts of Buddhists, their temples have become the sanctuaries for rare fish and hydrophile plants. According to the scientists, the surviving populations now included some individuals of Sinocyclocheilus grahami, Acrossocheilus yunnanensis, Racoma grahami, Yunnanilus plenrotaenia and Discogobio yunnanensis.

At present, even these endemic populations in the sanctuaries are in danger due to the introduction of alien species and human activities. Examples were the introduction of Ampullaria gigas spix, an alien snail, and the saprolegnious disease caused by steelhead trout (Salmon gairdeni) in 2006.

At present, little is known about the exact number of the endangered species remain survived in the religious shrines. Therefore, KIZ experts called on provincial authorities to carry out in-depth investigations to make clear the concrete actualities of species, so as to lay a solid foundation for their protection.

On the basis of the survey, the shrines should be made a protection sites for rare and indigenous aquatic life and protective measures should be drafted in an early date. And a publicity drive has to be launched so as to beef up the public's awareness of the conscious protection and all society's participation.


Original Article