URUMQI, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- With sunlight shimmering on its surface, reeds thriving in the water and a medley of migratory birds hovering above, Bosten Lake, China's largest inland freshwater lake, exudes a sense of beauty and vitality.
Situated in Bohu County of Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the lake is an important site for migratory birds and the scientists who study their movements.
Among them is Zhang Guogang, deputy head of the National Bird Banding Center, who can often be found by the lake attaching satellite tracking devices to birds he has caught and then setting them free.
"Each year, more than 100,000 birds fly over to Bosten Lake to breed, and it is an important site for us to study birds from across the world," said Zhang.
Placing tracking devices on migratory birds is like "handing out ID cards" to them, allowing researchers to learn about the migration routes, sizes and structures of a certain bird community, he added.
While the lake now is bursting with natural vitality, it once suffered from ecological degradation as a result of excessive development in the surrounding area.
The growing human population, sprawling arable land and the increasing number of businesses nearby led to rising salinity, dwindling biodiversity and drastically fluctuating water levels in Bosten Lake.
Since that time, efforts have been made to conserve and restore the lake's ecosystem.
Following an investigation, it was found that industrial wastewater, domestic sewage and farmland drainage constituted the major sources of pollution affecting water quality on the lake, while the depletion of the upper reaches of the lake resulted in the natural circulation of the lake water being hampered.
In response, local authorities have implemented a range of measures, such as managing and controlling pollution at its source, and separating pollutants from the water. As a result, the water level has now risen to 1,047 meters, 2 meters higher than the lowest level before the environmental revamp.
With the lake's ecosystem improved and public awareness of wildlife protection heightened, the population of wild birds is increasing in the area. The past few years have witnessed the lake habitat welcoming 10 new bird species, such as whooper swans and red-billed gulls, elevating the total number of bird species here to 198.
Boasting the largest fishery production base in Xinjiang and one of the four largest reed beds in the country, Bosten Lake is now a national wetland park and a top-level tourist site, attracting millions of tourists for leisure and sightseeing every year.
From January to July this year, Bohu County received more than 2.8 million tourist visits, a year-on-year increase of 74.75 percent, and raked in about 1.31 billion yuan (182.63 million U.S. dollars) in tourism revenue, a year-on-year increase of 67.98 percent.
Fish farming in the lake has also proved a lucrative source of income for local residents. Thanks to the crystal clear lake water and a rich reservoir of natural bait, the crabs cultivated in the lake are large and rich in crab roe, providing a rare local delicacy and finding a broad market nationwide.
Bohu County's charm, vitality and even its very existence are all derived from Bosten Lake, according to Liu Yi, head of the Bohu County branch of environment authorities of Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture.
"Ecological competitiveness is the wellspring of forces that drive the social and economic development of the county," said Liu. ■