Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area

Country
China
Inscribed in
1992
Criterion
(vii)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "good with some concerns" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
A spectacular area stretching over more than 26,000 ha in China's Hunan Province, the site is dominated by more than 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks, many over 200 m high. Between the peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls, some 40 caves, and two large natural bridges. In addition to the striking beauty of the landscape, the region is also noted for the fact that it is home to a number of endangered plant and animal species. © UNESCO
© Jim Thorsell

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020
Good with some concerns
The integrity of the World Heritage site generally, and its natural scenic and aesthetic values in particular, are of low concern but were significantly impacted by rapid tourism growth and burgeoning visitor numbers after the site's World Heritage inscription, which remains a challenge to the management. Targetted management interventions have yielded successful outcomes such as the reduction of air and water pollution, which is now controlled. However a number of necessary management improvements are still outstanding including the simplification of the current management system and agencies responsible for its implementation, and threats in the buffer zone and surrounding lands. Efforts to this end have resulted in an improved state of conservation of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area in recent years, however maintained action is required to resolve these issues fully in order to continue the positive trajectory.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Low Concern
Trend
Improving
The natural landscape and its outstanding scenic and aesthetic values and attributes have been compromised by excessive growth of tourist operations and facilities. These impacts are accentuated by the rapid and continuing increase in visitor numbers. However,  the number of tourists entering the World Natural Heritage Site of Wulingyuan is strictly controlled within the reasonable capacity specified in the "Wulingyuan Scenic Area Master Plan (2005-2020)" (State Party of China, 2018). Consequences of tourism and visitor pressures include loss and fragmentation of natural vegetation and wildlife habitat, disruption of ecosystems and species, increased carbon emissions (Tang et al., 2017), reduction of scenic attributes and intrinsic wilderness values, and lessening of visitor satisfaction. Management interventions to demolish illegal buildings and restore affected areas have been taken in the past, and further such interventions are ongoing (IUCN consultation, 2017; State Party of China, 2015; 2018). 

Overall THREATS

Low Threat
The threat from rapid tourism growth and burgeoning visitor numbers remains the greatest challenge for the management of the site, calling for a greater level of management intervention to reduce the impacts on the natural values of the property from urbanization and commercial development in its buffer zone. Also of some low threats are from pollution of air and water, some of which is a consequence of tourism development, however this has been brought under control in recent years. Additional but lower threats originate from within the local community relating to agricultural and other land uses, and from modification to waterways and land surfaces, which is contributing to increased hazards from high-magnitude, low-frequency events, like flooding and landslides.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
There are some challenges in management of the property. That of greatest concern relates to control of increasing tourism development. Management authorities have failed in the past to maintain a proper balance between retention of the outstanding natural value of the property and the pressures of mass tourism leading to urbanization and commercialization of significant parts of the property. Greater efforts have been put forward to remedy this unsatisfactory situation, reducing the impacts on the natural values of the property, however continuous efforts are needed. Another problem concerns the boundaries of the property and buffer zone, including pressure from the situation from the past (defined almost 30 years ago based on the old Plan of the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area) and challenges from the current reform on natural protected areas system. Myriad of agencies are involved in decision-making and the complex bureaucracy, which can lead to improperly planned and uncoordinated action. Although improvements have been made in that regard by joining the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Management Division and the Wulingyuan Scenic Area Administration into one single office, further integrated management between the world heritage property and the national protected area system could be achieved.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
02 Dec 2020

Description of values

An extensive and spectacular landscape of majestic quartz sandstone peaks

Criterion
(vii)
The quartz sandstone peak forest landscape in Wulingyuan consists of more than 3,000 sandstone columns and peaks, presenting a spectacle unlike any other of its kind in the world. Between the peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls. There are more than 40 caves many containing speleothems, and two huge natural stone bridges, one of which rises 357 m above the valley floor (IUCN, 1992; State Party of China, 2002; World Heritage Committee, 2014).
Diversity of ecosystems with rare, endangered and relict species.
Wulingyuan was a refuge for many ancient species of flora and fauna during the Quaternary glaciations. It is home to some 3 000 species of tropical, subtropical and temperate plants, including 600 spp. of woody plants. There are116 species of 50 families of terrestrial vertebrates. Globally endangered animals include the Chinese giant salamander, Chinese water deer, Asiatic wild dog and Asiatic black bear (IUCN, 1992; State Party of China, 2002).

Assessment information

Low Threat
Of greatest concern is the explosive growth of tourism in the 20 years since inscription of the property leading to excessive development of facilities, with increased urbanization and commercialism. These threats are being actively managed, with demolitions of illegal buildings having occurred in the past, and further interventions ongoing. Despite some management improvements, rapid increase in visitor numbers with overcrowding at times and environmental impacts remain high threats, and further assessment of the effectiveness of management to reduce these impacts needs to be undertaken. Threats of lesser concern relate to pollution of water and air, modification of river networks and water flows, impacts from local community uses of land and resources, and damage from low- frequency/high-magnitude events especially floods and landslides.
Water Pollution, Air Pollution
(Pollution of water bodies especially from sewage discharge, and air pollution mainly from from vehicle exhausts.)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Water and air pollution from a number of sources, including sewage and vehicles has been identified as a threat. However, this has been addressed by the management of the site such that it is currently a low threat. Monitoring undertaken from 2014 to 2016 indicates that the water quality from the monitoring sections including Longweixi, Shuiraosimen, Wujiayukou, and Huanglongdong are all in line with corresponding requirements, with the former three meeting the class II standard (i.e. drinking water) of surface water quality, and Huanglongdong meeting the class III standard. As for air quality, in 2015 and 2016, ambient air quality measured at Yuanjiajie station met the first class standard, while it met the second class standard at Weiyang station (IUCN consultation, 2017). It was reported in the State of Conservation Report of Wulingyuan (State Party of China, 2018) that: the comprehensive environmental management of the property and buffer zone were conducted, the environmental pollution prevention and control projects including water, air, and solid waste pollution were implemented, and integrated managements on river basins were carried out, effective monitoring and controlling the pollution in the property and buffer zone were continuously conducted. The water quality of the surface water monitoring sections in Wulingyuan District was continuously improved through the above operations...with the compliance rate of 100% met the requirements on corresponding functional zones (State Party of China, 2018).  It was reported on the official website of Wulingyuan Government (in Chinese) named “Environmental Quality Bulletin of Wulingyuan District in 2018” that in 2018, the number of days with good air quality in the Wulingyuan District was 338, with an excellent or good rate of 96.30%, an increase of 4 percentage points over the previous year (based on the air quality index AQI). 
Identity/social cohesion/ changes in local population and community that result in negative impact
(Local community impacts from housing, agriculture, sewage and waste disposal, firewood collection and hunting)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
The local government is currently implementing a 'Phase III' resettlement project of local residents in the Wulingyuan World Heritage site and has moved the residents of Tianzishan and Yuanjiajie in the Wulingyuan site to the areas in the buffer zone. To date, 411 households with 1,416 people have reportedly been resettled along with the removal of illegal buildings (UNESCO, 2019). The State Party of China, 2018 report to have included public consultation and a remediation and resettlement plan to encourage voluntary relocation and have made efforts to safeguard traditional cultures of those who have been relocated. However, the State Party should be further encouraged to ensure effective consultation, fair compensation, access to social benefits and skills training, and the preservation of cultural rights. Illegal hunting and collection of firewood (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; Huang Liangbin 2006; Wei Xiang 2011) reported in the 2014 IUCN World Heritage Outlook are reported to no longer be an issue, due to improvements in living standards and in awareness of the need for protection among the local populace (IUCN Consultation, 2017). The correct guidance and pollution control of agricultural activities in the buffer zone, such as the control of pesticides and the introduction of organic fertilizer and other measures, has reduced the impacts on the site in this regard (UNESCO, 2015).
Dams/ Water Management or Use
(Modification of river systems and water flows.)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Construction of dams and reservoirs for flood control and water uses; dredging of river beds; changes of river courses; constriction of flow discharge due to riverbank protection works and house construction; and filling in of springs have previously been reported (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; Huang Liangbin 2006; Wei Xiang 2011). In order to strengthen the protection on the Wulingyuan World Heritage, the local government has implemented sustainable water management policies. A so-called 'river chief system' has been established in Wulingyuan with a total of 84 'chiefs' assigned to the scheme, with varying responsibilities at district, town and village level with the aim of better managing the rivers located within Wulingyuan. A number of bans have also been enforced including on plantation of vegetables and crops; setup of buildings and infrastructure; dumping of waste; and unauthorized discharge of sewage within the river management zones (State Party of China, 2018).
Storms/Flooding
(Increased impacts of low-frequency high-intensity events, especially floods and landslides)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Flooding intensity and frequency had been reportedly increasing due to river course alterations and discharge restrictions a number of years ago along with increasing frequency of landslides due to clearing of forests and instability of slopes due to undercutting by road construction (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; Huang Liangbin 2006; Wei Xiang 2011). No floods are reported to have occurred in recent years (IUCN consultation, 2017), however remains a low level threat.
Tourism/ Recreation Areas
(Excessive tourist facility development)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Excessive and unchecked development of facilities were constructed especially in the decade following inscription of the property. Urbanization and commercialization of key scenic areas and main entrances used to happen. Towns developed in the property and villages grew into cities in the buffer zone and surrounding lands. By 2005, two new roads and a electricity tourist bus line were constructed, three cable car lines and a 326 m-high glass elevator was installed, and 40 new hotels and restaurants built in the property (World Heritage Outlook, 2014) resulting in subsequent loss of scenic and aesthetic quality, intrinsic wilderness attributes and traditional cultural values (UNESCO, 2015). Considerable localized environmental damage and disruption, including rock blasting, soil erosion, water and air pollution, and forest fragmentation caused plant and animal habitat loss and ecosystem disturbance (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; State Party of China, 2002; Huang Liangbin, 2006; Zhang, 2008; Wei Xiang, 2011). Extensive removal of illegal buildings (including the above-mentioned 40 hotels and restaurants) and restoration of affected areas took place between 1999 and 2003, and again between 2006 and 2009 (IUCN consultation, 2017; State Party of China, 2015). A third phase of the demolition project was ongoing between 2015-2018. Acknowledging the negative visual impacts of the cable cars and the elevator on the outstanding universal value of the property (State Party of China, 2018), positive measures have now been implemented to minimize the impact of existing cable car, elevator and electric railway tourism infrastructure within the property (UNESCO, 2019). 
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(Rapid increase in visitor numbers with overcrowding at times and environmental impacts)
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Rapid increase in visitation from less than one million persons/yr. in 1992, to more recent figures in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (till October) of approximately 3.884 million, 4.066 million, 4.083 million and 3.678 million respectively, all of which were strictly controlled within the reasonable capacity specified in the Overall Plan of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (2005-2020) of 5.56 million visitors per year (IUCN consultation, 2017; State Party of China, 2015; State Party of China, 2018). This rapid growth in visitation and the tourism industry has exceeded the physical and social carrying capacity of the site, leading to undesirable environmental impacts, loss of visitor satisfaction (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; Huang Liangbin 2006; Wei Xiang 2011) and significant increases in carbon emissions (Tang, Zhong, and Ng, 2017). The scenic spots of Zhangjiajie performed well regarding low-carbon behaviour, however, there are still a great deal of room for improvement and promotion (Kai Wang, Chang Gan, Yan Ou, 2019).
Low Threat
Management actions have been taking to remove illegal buildings. The governments at all levels related with Wulingyuan actively took a lot of effective measures to decrease the negative visual impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property of the cable cars, elevator and electric railway. They made substantial effects in the appearance of facilities, environmental remediation and personnel training, effectively reducing negative impact of these infrastructures. The State Party China and local governments where Wulingyuan is located in, were fully aware of the negative visual impacts of the cable cars and the elevator on the outstanding universal value of the property, no similar project has been constructed so far, and local government also have not planned to develop similar project inside the property (State Party of China, 2018). 
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(High visitation may continue to put pressure to develop tourism facilities)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
Although management actions are being taken to mitigate the impacts of tourism on the values of the site such as decreasing the negative visual impact of the cable cars, elevator and electric railway, high visitation is a constant management challenge, which may lead to further demands for development of tourism facilities and infrastructure in the future. 
The threat from rapid tourism growth and burgeoning visitor numbers remains the greatest challenge for the management of the site, calling for a greater level of management intervention to reduce the impacts on the natural values of the property from urbanization and commercial development in its buffer zone. Also of some low threats are from pollution of air and water, some of which is a consequence of tourism development, however this has been brought under control in recent years. Additional but lower threats originate from within the local community relating to agricultural and other land uses, and from modification to waterways and land surfaces, which is contributing to increased hazards from high-magnitude, low-frequency events, like flooding and landslides.
Management system
Mostly Effective
The current management plan "Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (2005-2020)" includes a specific chapter on "heritage protection and landscape conservation planning", which specifically addresses World Heritage conservation (State Party of China, 2015). According to relevant national requirements, the People’s Governments of Hunan Province, Zhangjiajie City and Wulingyuan District have launched the assessment and revision operations on the Overall Plan of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (2005-2020), for it's revision at the end of the implementation period in 2020. The World Heritage Committee recently expressed its regret that the State Party did not submit the 2005-2020 Overall Plan of Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area and also requested the State Party to submit the revised draft Plan to the World Heritage Centre for review as soon as it is available (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
Effectiveness of management system
Mostly Effective
Effectiveness of management has been hindered in the past by a myriad of government planning, policy-making and management agencies leading to disparate and un-coordinated goal setting and management direction (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; State Party of China, 2002; Huang Liangbin, 2006; Zijun Tang, 2011). However, The Administration of Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan Scenic Area and National Forest Park Administration has now been set up, administering the management of the property in coordination with the Wulingyuan District People's Government and is reported to have significantly improved the effectiveness of management system, such that it is in an effective state (State Party of China, 2018). Furthermore, recent measures have been taken to improve this situation (see: "legal framework" and "integration into regional and national planning systems"), representing positive steps. Undertaking a comprehensive management effectiveness evaluation, using an internationally recognized management effectiveness evaluation toolkit, such as "Enhancing our Heritage" would generate a better understanding of current management effectiveness, and guide further actions needed to improve it.  
Boundaries
Some Concern
The boundaries of the site are of some concern, largely due to the fact that they were delineated at the time of inscription in 1991 based on the now outdated boundaries of the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, which needs to be updated (State Party of China, 2015). Additionally, insufficient or lack of buffer zones in some parts of the WH site (Figure 2, State Party of China, 2015) cannot mitigate the negative impacts of pollutants effectively and therefore may require review in order to ensure the outstanding universal value of the property is maintained and effectively managed, and the protection of the property is not weakened but strengthened after the national protected area reform in Wulingyuan.
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Mostly Effective
Multiple agency management and complex bureaucratic systems have previously been problematic. In January 2015, Zhangjiajie municipal government developed the "Zhanjiajie Wulingyuan scenic area management system reform work programme", and joined the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Management Division and the Wulingyuan Scenic Area Administration into one office and is taking measures to rationalize the Wulingyuan Scenic Area management system and operational mechanism (IUCN consultation, 2017). These are important steps towards improving integration of the property into regional and national planning systems. In March 2018, China completed the reform and adjustment on administrative authorities for protected areas at the national level and the Ministry of Natural Resources of the People's Republic of China was founded, representing a major change and improvement in the history of China's protected area management. So far, all the protected areas in China have been subjected to uniform management by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (National Park Service) affiliated to the Ministry of Natural Resources, fully reflecting the strong emphasis on the Chinese government's unified and coordinated management on different types of natural protected areas. The management of Wulingyuan has also and will continue to benefit from this reform (State Party of China, 2018).
Relationships with local people
Some Concern
There has been significant wide-spread disturbance of the residential community through re-location and re–housing (State Party of China, 2002). Negative perceptions of relocation and resettlement are common among the residents (Wang Kai, et al., 2017). In 2019, the World Heritage Committee requested the State Party of China to ensure that any such programmes are in line with the with the 2015 Policy Document on the Integration of a Sustainable Development Perspective into the Processes of the Convention and ensure effective consultation, fair compensation, access to social benefits and skills training, and the preservation of cultural rights (World Heritage Committee, 2019). Concern has also been expressed amongst the communities that traditional cultural practices and values are being lost (Xiang, 2011).  However, the State Party report submitted to the World heritage Committee states that traditional culture of relocated residents, including food customs and traditional festival activities etc were fully respected and reserved in the places of immigration (State Party of China, 2018). The State Party has also reported a series of policies on compensation, resettlement, production and living security, and proposing measures to benefit the people. To date, more than 95% of the residents have expressed satisfaction and voluntarily signed a relocation agreement (IUCN Consultation, 2020).
Legal framework
Mostly Effective
Newly formulated regulations on World Natural Heritage Protection are commendable. Besides the laws and regulations of China, on January 1, 2001, China’s first local regulation for protecting world natural heritage, the Regulations on Protecting Wulingyuan World Natural Heritage Property in Hunan Province, were officially approved by the people’s congress of Hunan Province and its publication and implementation represents that the protection of Wulingyuan natural World Heritage is now represented in legal text (State Party of China, 2015).
Law enforcement
Mostly Effective
The local government carefully enforces national environmental protection laws and regulations, to ensure that laws are observed, including relevant prosecution for those acting contrary to these regulations (State Party of China, 2015), with the establishment of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area Law Enforcement Bureau gradually improving law enforcement at the site (IUCN consultation, 2017). 
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Mostly Effective
The State Party has made progress in implementing the decisions and recommendations of the World Heritage Committee related to Wulingyuan. For example: 1. Manage tourism sustainably in face of rapid increase in facilities – many buildings and illegal tourist facilities demolished, improved waste management systems installed, shuttle bus introduced, improved ticketing. 2. Prepare a species conservation status report as basis for inscription under biodiversity criteria – some lists of species compiled, and cooperation with Zhongnan Forestry University between 2015-2017 on a research plan to catalogue biodiversity. 3. Manage the buffer zone for conservation objectives – planned expansion of buffer zone not conducted. Major tourism developments and urbanization in buffer zone and surrounding lands. Extensive re-afforestation of cleared and agricultural land. 4. Seek WH emergency funding for repair of flood damage – 60,000 USD received from the World Heritage Fund to restore infrastructure damaged by floods in 1998. (World Heritage Committee, 1998; IUCN, 1992; IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; State Party of China, 2002). 5. requests the State Party to ensure that no further such developments are permitted within the property—Since March 2015, neither similar infrastructures (like cable cars, elevators and electricity buses) nor new roads have been developed within the Property (State Party of China, 2018). However concerns are still noted in the most recent Committee decision, specifically relating to tourism and road infrastructure development and relationships with local people (World Heritage Committee, 2019). 
Sustainable use
Mostly Effective
Reduction in natural resources and environmental impacts from community agricultural and farming uses continue to be of some concern (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; Huang Liangbin 2006). Within the property, the residential areas engaging in agricultural production include Tianzishan, Yuanjiajie and Suoxiyu. With the accelerating of tourism development in recent few years, the Wulingyuan World Natural Heritage Site has mitigated its agricultural pollution and residents’ agricultural activities are causing less damage to the environment (State Party of China, 2015). A few farmland landscapes that are of important aesthetic and cultural value have been reserved and restored, including the original architectural form and traditional farming activities of farmers living in the property for generations.Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are forbidden in the property (State Party of China, 2015).
Sustainable finance
Mostly Effective
Revenue generation from tourist operations is very significant to the site (State Party of China, 2002; Wei Xiang, 2011), with the people’s government at Wulingyuan District and Zhangjiajie Forest Park’s management bureau receiving RMB 49.35 Yuan and RMB 44.65 Yuan respectively from each ticket sold in order to fund management activities. Operational taxation and charge of companies in the property and buffer zones adds additional revenue for these purposes as well as other sources such as the World Heritage Fund, which had been used previously as emergency aid; together with municipal, provincial and national investment. Private enterprises in the property include Tianzishan Cable Car Company, Bailong Elevator Company and Huangshizhai Cable Car Company, who have also made contribution to the protection and management (State Party of China, 2015).
Staff capacity, training, and development
Highly Effective
Staff numbers have increased from approx. 500 in 2002 to almost 700 in 2011, but training requires improvement (State Party of China, 2002; Wei Xiang 2011). It is noted that capacity building has been a focus of management for many years with much work being done on personnel training and heritage protection (IUCN consultation, 2017). In 2017, Wulingyuan became one of the two pilot projects of UNESCO “World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism”. The panel of Asia Pacific Heritage Center Expert conducted a number of special research activities and organized the world heritage protection training courses (State Party of China, 2018). Several trainings related with world natural heritage by the National Forestry and Grassland of the provincial departments have also been held (hnlky.cn, 2019)
Education and interpretation programs
Highly Effective
Public education has been a focus of management for many years, with reportedly successful results (IUCN consultation, 2017). Zhangjiajie World Geopark Museum/Wulingyuan World Natural Heritage Exhibition Center is being upgrading to provide better interpretation and education for tourists (Zhangjiajie Global Geopark Museum, 2019)
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
Tourism growth and development remain the most important and problematic areas for management of the property. Continued tourism growth will likely exacerbate this problem. In April 2017, Wulingyuan was selected as a pilot project of the UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Project in China and jointly developed the Wulingyuan World Natural Heritage Demonstration with the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Research Center (Tongji University). The project was completed by the end of 2018, and is expected to contribute to improving sustainable tourism management of the property (IUCN consultation, 2020). With a demonstrated positive impact on the sustainability of tourism at the property, future assessments of tourism and visitation management may improve accordingly.
Monitoring
Highly Effective
Monitoring system for environmental conditions, air and water quality, noise pollution, vegetation and ecosystems, animal habitats and species, pests and geological risks has improved markedly in recent years (State Party of China, 2002; IUCN Consultation, 2020). In order to protect natural resources, Wulingyuan has established a set of monitoring systems, with the participated monitoring units including the Forestry Bureau, tourism companies, environmental protection transportation companies, construction bureau, park management office and environmental protection bureau (State Party of China, 2015). 
Research
Highly Effective
There is an active research program and the results of research are taken into account for improved management (State Party of China, 2002). In 2004, Wulingyuan was accepted as the first batch of the UNESCO Geo-park and the intensity of scientific research in the site has gradually strengthened. In April 2011, the Zhangjiajie Landform Joint Research Center, jointly set up by park management committee and IGSNRR (Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS), officially announced its establishment. More recently, Wulingyuan has also intensified the biodiversity research occurring in the site (State Party of China, 2015). 
There are some challenges in management of the property. That of greatest concern relates to control of increasing tourism development. Management authorities have failed in the past to maintain a proper balance between retention of the outstanding natural value of the property and the pressures of mass tourism leading to urbanization and commercialization of significant parts of the property. Greater efforts have been put forward to remedy this unsatisfactory situation, reducing the impacts on the natural values of the property, however continuous efforts are needed. Another problem concerns the boundaries of the property and buffer zone, including pressure from the situation from the past (defined almost 30 years ago based on the old Plan of the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area) and challenges from the current reform on natural protected areas system. Myriad of agencies are involved in decision-making and the complex bureaucracy, which can lead to improperly planned and uncoordinated action. Although improvements have been made in that regard by joining the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Management Division and the Wulingyuan Scenic Area Administration into one single office, further integrated management between the world heritage property and the national protected area system could be achieved.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
There is little evidence from available reports that the threats in the buffer zone and surrounding lands are being effectively addressed.
Best practice examples
In 2012, the 36th World Heritage Committee formally adopted the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Project. In April 2017 a two-year cooperation agreement was signed with two pilot units, one of which is Wulingyuan. Based on the problem orientation, this study divided into five sections: "OUV Basic Research of World Heritage Sites", "Cognition of OUV by World Heritage Stakeholders", "Protection and Management of OUV of World Heritage Sites ", "Operation and Management of World Heritage sites as tourist destinations ", and " Community Engagement in OUV protection and tourism development of World Heritage Site. " The research is divided into two stages. The first stage is an international and domestic comparison; the second stage is the analysis of the current situation of the World Heritage Site. The research method applied in the first stage is mainly based on literature review and on-site investigation. Stage one is also divided into two approaches: a comprehensive understanding of the "World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism" programme. Including a review of the five objectives, the Action Plan of the UNESCO’s World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Toolkit, “Sustainable Tourism Capacity Building” Project carried out in Africa, pilot sites in Nordic-Baltic region, and Community-based Management and Sustainable Tourism project in South-East Asia. And a review of World Heritage application documents, outstanding universal values, value carriers, integrity, protection and management, the evaluation of the World Heritage Advisory Body, the status report on protection, and the resolutions of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The differences and commonalities between the value identified by the World Heritage Committee and the present value identified by China are determined by field survey and analysis. Stage Two research method is based on literature review, on-site investigation, in-depth interviews, and questionnaires, and this stage is divided into four approaches: Identifying the four major stakeholders closely related to heritage protection and tourism development, namely administrators, residents, tourism practitioners and tourists; and analyzing the deviation of OUV protection caused by cognitive differences though the analysis of the four major stakeholders' cognition of heritage value, protection, community culture and relevant acquisition channels. From the perspective of management, the research makes a comparative analysis of the existing institutional setup, management system, and heritage management planning on the one side, and the status quo of other relevant national planning in Chinese heritage sites on the other, in order to point out the conflicts between the existing management system and management planning, and the implementation of protection and management of OUV. To analyze the conflicts caused by tourism development on OUV. The research, based on the current status of tourism development, analyzes the interpretation and dissemination of the concept of heritage OUV in tourism activities, the combination of tourism products and heritage value, tourism operation and management, and the investment of tourism income in heritage protection. Finally, from the perspective of the community, the research assesses the spatial distribution of the community in the heritage site, the approaches and means of the community for OUV protection, the degree and effect of the community engagement in tourism activities, and the conflict between the community engagement in tourism development and OUV preservation. Six experts from World Heritage Centre praised the research results of the pilot study. It was agreed that the study is of great significance and has strong practicality and pertinence in the context of the analysis of the overheated tourism market and the relation development / protection in China. The experts also mentioned that the pilot study could play a certain role of reference and be thought-provoking for other 53 World Heritage Sites in China (http://www.whitr-ap.org/index.php?classid=1509&newsid=3098&t=show, 2019.8).
 
World Heritage values

An extensive and spectacular landscape of majestic quartz sandstone peaks

Low Concern
Trend
Improving
The quartz sandstone peaks that constitute the site's OUV are naturally resilient to threats and therefore of low concern overall. However, the property’s outstanding scenic and aesthetic values and attributes have been impacted by unchecked growth of tourist operations and facilities in the past. A rapid increase in visitor numbers has caused overcrowding which, on some days during the high season, exceeds the physical and social carrying capacity of the property. The imbalance between retention of the outstanding natural values of the property and the pressures of mass tourism has created undesirable levels of urbanization and commercialization of some parts of the property and its buffer zone (IUCN/UNESCO, 1998; State Party of China, 2002; Huang Liangbin 2006; Zhang 2008; Wei Xiang 2011). Management interventions to demolish illegal buildings and restore affected areas have been taken in the past, and further such interventions are ongoing (IUCN consultation, 2017; State Party of China, 2015; 2018).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Low Concern
Trend
Improving
The natural landscape and its outstanding scenic and aesthetic values and attributes have been compromised by excessive growth of tourist operations and facilities. These impacts are accentuated by the rapid and continuing increase in visitor numbers. However,  the number of tourists entering the World Natural Heritage Site of Wulingyuan is strictly controlled within the reasonable capacity specified in the "Wulingyuan Scenic Area Master Plan (2005-2020)" (State Party of China, 2018). Consequences of tourism and visitor pressures include loss and fragmentation of natural vegetation and wildlife habitat, disruption of ecosystems and species, increased carbon emissions (Tang et al., 2017), reduction of scenic attributes and intrinsic wilderness values, and lessening of visitor satisfaction. Management interventions to demolish illegal buildings and restore affected areas have been taken in the past, and further such interventions are ongoing (IUCN consultation, 2017; State Party of China, 2015; 2018). 
Assessment of the current state and trend of other important biodiversity values
Data Deficient
Trend
Data Deficient
The property’s diverse ecosystems and biodiversity are impacted by the same threats that affect its outstanding scenic values. However, there is insufficient data available to assess the actual impact from these threats on biodiversity.

Additional information

Outdoor recreation and tourism
Almost 5 billion yuan in tourist revenue was earned in 2009 – an increase from 2 billion yuan in 2002 (Wei XIANG 2011). A disproportionate amount of revenue benefit is going to local people. Large businesses and tourist operators are benefitting most. Many private companies are exploiting the property which is a public resource (Huang Liangbin 2006). Some hotels are State-owned.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Pollution
Impact level - High
Overexploitation
Impact level - High
Commercial wells
Several dams and reservoirs have been constructed within the property and surrounding catchments. There is better control of flood discharges and reduced impact from flooding on people and property. Hydroelectric power is being controlled and withdrawn in an orderly manner, such as Wulingyuan Suoxi Hydropower Station. There is much improved water supply from reservoirs for residents and businesses in the property and buffer zone.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Low
Pollution
Impact level - Moderate
Overexploitation
Impact level - Moderate
Direct employment
Cash income is available through employment of almost 700 people as staff in the property. Many more local people benefit from tourist revenue generation. The service and construction industries are enhanced by tourist development and the provision of facilities. Subsistence agriculture is permitted in the property. There are improved water supply, energy sources, and waste management systems. Re-housing of displaced people is occurring.
Carbon sequestration,
Soil stabilisation,
Flood prevention,
Water provision (importance for water quantity and quality),
Pollination
Much attention are given to to protection of World Natural Heritage Properties in China through national laws and regulations, which bring much environmental services. For example, in the property, forest coverage rate is up to 98% and no forest fire has broken out in the past 57 years consecutively, and no floods has been reported for many consecutive years. In a word, the threats of natural hazards to the property are low (UNESCO, 2015).
Tourist operations generate a very substantial amount of revenue for the property, as well as providing employment, both in the property and in the local business community. Better water management has improved water supply, flood control and generation of energy, which has reduced the dependence on coal for fuel. The local community has benefitted greatly from employment, cash income and the support of sustainable living. There is some concern that traditional cultural practices and values are being lost.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 World Heritage Centre, World Heritage Institute of Training and Research-Asia and Pacific (shanghai), Tongji University, People's Government of Wulingyuan In 2012, the 36th World Heritage Committee formally adopted the World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Project coordinated by the World Heritage Centre. After a period of six months of analysis and screening, in April 2017 a two-year cooperation agreement was signed with two pilot units, one of which is Wulingyuan (http://www.whitr-ap.org/index.php?classid=1509&amp;newsid=3098&amp;t=show). Two research topics including “Outstanding Universal Value and Sustainable Tourism of World Heritage” and “Sustainable Development and Protection World Heritage Property Tourism and Community” were selected from current pilot projects of Wulingyuan, according to the requirements on the development of the Wulingyuan World Natural Heritage Property, sustainable tourism plan and management capabilities of the Wulingyuan World Natural Heritage Property were further improved through the survey and investigations by the expert group, guaranteeing highlighting the protection on outstanding universal values and sustainable development of the local community (State Party of China, 2018).
http://www.whitr-ap.org/index.php?classid=1509&amp;newsid=3098&amp;t=show

References

References
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