Chinese subtropical forest

Country/Territory China (mainland)
Area 160,000 km2
Altitude 300 - 2200m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss severe
Knowledge poor

General characteristics

The restricted-range species of this Chinese EBA have been recorded in subtropical forest in the mountains to the south-west of the Sichuan basin in south-central Sichuan province and adjacent north-east Yunnan, and a few scattered localities in the mountains of Guizhou and northern Guangdong provinces and northern Guangxi autonomous region. Their distributions are exceptionally poorly known, and most natural forest in the lowlands and foothills has been cleared, so an approximate boundary to the EBA has been drawn to include all land between c.900 and c.1,500 m within their known ranges.

In Sichuan, this EBA overlaps geographically with the southern part of the Central Sichuan mountains (EBA 137), but the birds of that EBA breed mainly at higher altitudes in the temperate zone. In Guangdong and Guangxi, this EBA overlaps with the western part of the South-East Chinese mountains (EBA 141); most of the birds of that EBA are also associated with subtropical broadleaf forest, but for both regions the available information is not good enough to determine whether the birds of the two EBAs are separated ecologically, or occur together in the same habitats.

Restricted-range species

The restricted-range species are recorded only from a small number of scattered localities, where they have been found in broadleaf forest in the subtropical zone below about 2,000 m. Arborophila rufipectus is only known from southern Sichuan and almost certainly in adjacent parts of north-east Yunnan where calls considered attributable to this species were heard in 1997 (King 1989a,b, He Fen-qi 1992, Dowell 1995, S. D. Dowell in litt. 1997). Liocichla omeiensis has been found on Omei Shan (Mt Emei) and other nearby mountains, and in the Daliang Shan (Dai Bo 1996). Alcippe variegaticeps and Oriolus mellianus are recorded from Sichuan and a few mountain ranges in the provinces to the south-east (Cheng Tso-hsin 1987, King 1989b, Crosby 1991, Wu Zhikang et al. 1994). Phylloscopus emeiensis was described from Omei Shan in Sichuan by Alström and Olsson (1995), but has also been recorded on Fanjing Shan in Guizhou (Crosby in prep.) and was found to be common in the Daliang Shan and adjacent northern Yunnan in 1997 (R. Williams in litt. 1997).

Species IUCN Category
Sichuan Partridge (Arborophila rufipectus) EN
Silver Oriole (Oriolus mellianus) EN
Emei Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus emeiensis) LC
Golden-fronted Fulvetta (Schoeniparus variegaticeps) VU
Emei Shan Liocichla (Liocichla omeiensis) VU

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
Babao Shan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
Zemulong China (mainland)
CN205 Labahe Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN206 Erlang Shan China (mainland)
CN207 Wawu Shan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN208 Emei Shan China (mainland)
CN210 Daqiao China (mainland)
CN211 Cizhu China (mainland)
CN213 Heizhugou Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN214 Dazhubao and Dafengding China (mainland)
CN215 Pingshan Wuzhi Shan China (mainland)
CN217 Mamize Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN266 Wulianfeng China (mainland)
CN282 Fanjing Shan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN290 Maolan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN465 Mao'er Shan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN466 Tianping Shan China (mainland)
CN475 Dayao Shan Nature Reserve China (mainland)
CN489 Nanling mountains China (mainland)
CN489 Nanling mountains China (mainland)
CN490 Maozi Feng China (mainland)

Threat and conservation

Much natural forest in this EBA has already been cleared or degraded, and many of the remaining areas are under pressure. Thus, forest cover in Sichuan was estimated to have been reduced from 19% to 12.6% between the early 1950s and 1988 (Smil 1993), and the relatively accessible, low-altitude subtropical forests have been disproportionately badly affected. Four of the EBA's restricted-range species are threatened because of this continuing loss and fragmentation of their forest habitat. One, Arborophila rufipectus, is classified as Critical because of its highly restricted range, where it is recorded from a few forest fragments, all of them unprotected and under pressure from human activities (Dai Bo 1996).

Several protected areas are known or suspected to support populations of the restricted-range birds. Although Arborophila rufipectus has not yet been found in any protected area, it could occur in Dafengding Nature Reserve in Sichuan, where Alcippe variegaticeps has been recorded (King 1989b). A. variegaticeps and Oriolus mellianus are historically known from the Yao Shan (Dayao Shan) range in Guangxi, where there is a reserve, although there are apparently no records of these species from there since it was gazetted, and this area has suffered two decades of rapid deforestation due to conversion of forest to agricultural land, with large additional areas destroyed by uncontrolled fires (Smil 1984, Lewthwaite 1996). Liocichla omeiensis is not recorded in any protected area, but this species, Phylloscopus emeiensis and A. variegaticeps have been recorded on Omei Shan, which, as one of China's five sacred mountains (Robson 1989), has not been subject to forest clearance-although development for tourism is causing some localized forest loss there, particularly in the subtropical zone (M. J. Crosby pers. obs. 1991). P. emeiensis also occurs in Fanjing Shan Nature Reserve. Oriolus mellianus has been recorded in Tuoda Forest Nature Reserve in Guizhou, but only in September, so it may be a passage migrant there.

Li Wenhua and Zhao Xian-jing (1989) describe several protected areas in Guizhou, Guangxi and Guangdong as containing subtropical broadleaf forest, but there appear to have been no documented ornithological surveys of these sites. It is likely that unprotected remnants of natural forest also support important populations of some of the restricted-range species, and the location and survey of these forests is required before conservation priorities can be established for this exceptionally poorly known area.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Chinese subtropical forest. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 03/10/2022.