China's first nature reserve was the Dinghu Mountain Nature Reserve, established in 1956 in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province. At the end of 2004, there were 2,194 nature reserves of various kinds throughout the country, covering a total area of 148.23 million ha, and accounting for 14.8 percent of the total land territory. Protected through these nature reserves are 88 percent of the land eco-system types, 87 percent of the wildlife populations, 65 percent of the higher plant communities, nearly 20 percent of the natural forests, 50 percent of the China's marshland and wetland, main habitats of more than 300 precious and endangered species of wild animals, and major distribution areas for over 130 precious tree varieties.
Of all China's nature reserves, the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve established in August 2000 is the greatest concentration of bio-diversity. Covering a total area of 316,000 sq km and an average elevation over 4,000 meters, it is also the largest and highest. It is located in the central area of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, at the source of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers. State-level investment totaling 220 million yuan has been put into the Sanjiangyuan protection project, which started in 2003. Guangdong Province has 209 nature reserves, the most in China, covering a total area of 3.17 million ha. Wolong and Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan Province, Changbaishan in Jilin Province, Dinghushan in Guangdong Province, Baishuijiang in Gansu Province are among the 27 reserves designated by UNESCO as "World Biosphere Reserves."