California Academy of SciencesNatural History Museum

Gaoligong Shan Biodiversity Survey

Project Description

Stretching 600 km along the southwestern border of China’s Yunnan Province is the Gaoligong Shan (GLGS) range; a dramatic landscape of steep mountains, rushing rivers, and deep ravines. In the spirit of multidisciplinary international collaboration, scientists from the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have participated in the first long-term, comprehensive biological exploration of this remote area since 1998. Funding from The National Science Foundation (Biotic Surveys and Inventories) and the MacArthur Foundation has allowed the project participants from almost every CAS research department join their Chinese colleagues in Yunnan twice a year to inventory the diverse biota of the Gaoligongshan region. Through this interactive website, you are invited to explore the areas surveyed by the project scientists, what organisms they collected, and why it is critical to survey the biodiversity of the Gaoligong Shan mountains.


In addition to generating extensive natural history museum collections for all institutions involved, the Gaoligong Shan Biodiversity Survey is making the results of the survey available online through this website and interactive maps.


The unique geologic history of the Gaoligong Shan region has created an extreme degree of endemism among its ridges and valleys. Until 1996, foreigners were not permitted into the region and the biological knowledge in local museum collections was difficult to access. Today, participating scientists are sharing their resources and expertise in an effort to thoroughly survey the Gaoligong Shan region and provide data that will better inform management and conservation decisions in the future. An estimated 250,000 to 300,000 specimens will be gathered by 2008 and already many new species have been described and are in the process of being described. Understanding patterns of endemism in multiple taxonomic groups is an important step in building regional conservation strategies in this biodiverse habitat that is still largely undisturbed.

Base map of the Gaoligong Shan study area. Yunnan, China