BEIJING, June 30 (Xinhua) -- China has 2,740 nature reserves, covering 1.47 million square kilometers, a State Council report said Thursday.
This includes 446 national-level reserves, said the report submitted to an ongoing bi-monthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.
Nature reserves cover 1.42 million square kilometers of land, or 14.8 percent of the country's land mass, with the rest taken up by marine reserves, according to the report delivered by Minister of Environmental Protection Chen Jining.
The first reserve was established in 1956.
Eighty-nine percent of the species of state-protected wildlife and the majority of important natural relics are in nature reserves, and some rare and endangered species have seen population increases, the report showed.
The giant panda population in the wild now exceeds 1,800, thus, changing it from an endangered species to a vulnerable one.
Populations of Siberian tiger, Amur leopard, Asian elephant, crested ibis and elk have also increased, according to the report.
Despite all the progress, the country still faces great pressure in protecting ecological environment and has yet to address a number of challenges in building and managing nature reserves, Chen stressed.
Many nature reserves are located in China's revolutionary bases, ethnic and border regions, and under-developed areas, where it is an arduous task to coordinate economic development, ecological preservation and poverty alleviation, he said.
In some regions, nature reserves have been encroached upon or revoked, for economic gain.
Meanwhile, unfettered construction has adversely affected the ecosystems and value of some nature reserves, according to Chen.
Moreover, aquatic life and marine ecosystems are not protected as well as their terrestrial counterparts, the report showed.
In some regions rich in biodiversity, there are no nature reserves, it said.
Over the next five years, the government will proceed with legislation on nature reserves, improve their ecological monitoring networks, provide better personnel and financial support, and carry out regular inspections, Chen said.