Wetlands directly support the health of people and the planet by providing clean water and food, natural wastewater treatment and flood prevention, while also storing carbon. These important ecosystems are at risk; globally up to 87 percent of wetlands have disappeared in the past three centuries.
Biodiversity loss is a global issue that affects life across different biomes, but species that live in freshwater areas, such as wetlands, are notably suffering the fastest decline. Freshwater flora and fauna experienced 83 percent population loss between 1978 and 2018 globally.
Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province is China’s largest freshwater lake. The lake feeds into the Yangtze River, with two wetlands being named of international importance by the Ramsar Convention. It is home to 40 percent of the population of finless porpoises and serves as a major overwintering site for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, including more than 90 percent of the population of the critically endangered Siberian crane. In the past, overfishing reduced the lake’s aquatic life population, birds faced threats from illegal hunting and habitat destruction and pollution impacted the lake’s water quality, and climate change and unregulated human activities exacerbated these threats.
In 2019, viscose manufacturer Sateri joined forces with Conservation International (CI) to protect Poyang Lake’s environment and biodiversity for the long-term welfare of 45 million people living in the basin. The company was founded in the basin, and thereby is one of the stakeholders of its health.
The first step in this project was to know the state of the lake’s health, the drivers of degradation and identify prioritized next steps to address these issues in partnership with all stakeholders in the basin, especially the decision makers. For this, experts and scholars—including academics from universities—used CI’s Freshwater Health Index (FHI) tool to assess the health of the basin. This was carried out in partnership with scientists, water resource managers, communities and private sectors. This health assessment of Poyang Lake Basin has been made by three indicators: Ecosystem Vitality, Ecosystem Services, and Governance and Stakeholders.
“The FHI tool is unique in highlighting the relationships between healthy freshwater ecosystems, the multiple services they provide, and the role of governance and stakeholders in freshwater management and use,” said WenBin Huang, senior sustainability manager at Sateri. “Undertaking an FHI assessment is a collaborative exercise between scientists, end users and stakeholders. This ensures that the results produced are salient, credible and useful.”
The results of this first assessment have been used to inform policy and stakeholder actions, including sustainable management of the wetlands. Better governance with more collaboration has been identified as critical for improving the lake’s health.
“Biodiversity conservation requires cooperation,” said Huang. “By partnering with world-leading conservation organizations such as CI, we can encourage governments, corporations and communities to work together on conservation, find the way towards addressing challenges the lake is facing and benefit both people and nature.”
The company established the Sateri Poyang Lake Volunteer Service Station, which has launched primary school courses about migratory birds, helped to save wildlife and cleaned up about six miles of the lake’s beach. A pilot program has been launched in Xu Village to get local villagers to join in biodiversity protection. It has undertaken bird watching and nature education activities so far to raise awareness in the community. The program also engaged local schools and media in nature education activities supported by courses developed based on “The Wonderful Life at Poyang Lake,” a recently published book by CI and partners such as Jiangxi Provincial Forestry Bureau.
Sateri has also enlisted its value chain partners for this project. For instance, Sateri collaborated with Semir Group last December to donate 200 sets of warm apparel to the local wetland managers and rangers.
The Poyang Lake conservation initiative reflects Sateri’s Vision 2030 plan for sustainable development. Launched in 2020, the strategy centers on four pillars: climate and ecosystem protection, closed-loop production, innovation and circularity, and inclusive growth. “Sateri aspires to be the world’s leading net-positive fiber producer and has taken ‘environmental protection’ as the premise of development. We have launched zero-carbon options for three fiber products in 2022: our sustainable viscose EcoCosy®, lyocell and the recycled fiber brand FINEX™. Sateri will continue to implement measures in carbon reduction in the future to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Huang.
Another Sateri-supported biodiversity site is Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) in Indonesia. Encompassing around 580 square miles, the tropical peat forest is managed by Sateri’s pulp supplier April. Not only does this wooded area capture carbon, but it is also home to 750 species.
As a maker of wood-based fibers, Sateri’s protection of habitats and biodiversity extends to its input sourcing. Huang noted, “Sateri is committed to sourcing sustainable dissolving wood pulp that supports sustainable forest management and the protection of ecologically and culturally important forests and rights of local communities, including indigenous groups.”
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