The Changtang Plateau is located in the northern part of Tibet in western China, with the most numerous, high altitude lake complexes in the world. High altitude lakes (n = 48) were visited from July to August, 2008, to investigate the summer abundance and distribution of waterbirds. A total of 43,143 individuals of 49 waterbird species were recorded during our survey. Among them, the most abundant were Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus), followed by Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunnicephalus), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) and Great Black-headed Gull (L. ichthyaetus). These four species comprised 81.2% of all the waterbirds counted. A total of 12,796 Bar-headed Geese were counted at 39 lakes and comprised 29.6% of total birds counted. The lakes with greatest number of individuals were Dong, Rebang, Kunzhong, Yaduo, and Yueqia; the lakes with greatest species richness were Bangong, Dangreyong, Aiyong, Yaduo, and Zharinanmu, while the lakes with greatest bird species diversity were Dangreyong, Bangong, Kunzhong, and Aiyong. In addition, a total of 514 Black-necked Cranes (Grus nigicollis) were counted at 39 lakes, including 326 individuals in Nagqu Prefecture and 188 in Aili Prefecture. There were significant differences between the waterbird species, among the different salinities of the lakes and with the area of the lakes. The principal long-term threat to lakes in the Changtang region is wetland degradation, primarily from mineral exploitation.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1