National legislators and political advisers have called for a new law and an updated list of wildlife under State protection to better guard China's biodiversity.
China is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, with areas of the country representing all types of land ecosystems. It is also home to 35,000 higher plant species, 8,000 vertebrate species and 28,000 kinds of marine organisms. It also has more cultivated plant and domesticated animal species than any other country.
More than 1.7 million square kilometers - or 18 percent of China's land mass covering more than 90 percent of land ecosystem types and more than 89 percent of wildlife - is on a State protection list, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
Some populations of endangered animals - including the giant panda, Siberian tiger and Asian elephant - have grown steadily thanks to government efforts, it said.
Despite those achievements, national legislator Zhang Tianren said human population growth, industrialization and accelerated urbanization mean that China's biodiversity is still under threat.
"The excessive consumption of natural resources, heavy environmental pollution, large-scale planting of single plant species, invasion of alien species and climate change have all contributed to declining biodiversity," Zhang said.
China's Environmental Protection Law does not detail how biodiversity should be protected or list punishments for its destruction, Zhang said, and while the Law on Protection of Wildlife prohibits the hunting and killing of wild animals, it does not cover genetic resources, a key part of biodiversity protection.
He said many countries - India, Brazil and South Africa, for example - have laws on biodiversity protection, and some have enacted laws on genetic resources protection.
China's southwestern Yunnan province pioneered biodiversity legislation as regulations took effect on Jan 1.
National legislator Cai Xueen said a national law on biodiversity "is a must" to establish a legal and regulatory framework for China's ecological progress. He noted that China has already published at least five national action plans or guidelines for biodiversity protection, which have laid a good foundation for such a law.
China will host the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity next year.
"A national law would show to the world China's resolve in biodiversity protection," Cai said.
Wan Jie, a national political adviser, called for revisions to the list of wildlife under special State protection, which has not been updated since it was published in 1989.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, two birds - Baer's pochard and spoon-billed sandpiper - are extremely endangered, with only about 10000 of each species left. China has been working to protect them, but they have yet to be included on the list, Wan said.
He said the protection level for some of the animals on the list should be upgraded because they were increasingly endangered.