This summer, China has been experiencing its worst heat wave on record, and the Yangtze river, the third longest river in the world, is drying up. With that comes the loss of ecosystems and critical species.

Source: Bloomberg Quicktake: Now/YouTube

Rainfall has been far below average this year, and the water levels in the river have dropped to record lows, exposing cracked riverbeds and submerged islands. China’s most important river, the Yangtze, is responsible for providing drinking water to over 400 million people. However, with the low levels this summer, entire sections, and tributaries have been drying up. Another major concern for the regions has been getting enough water for their crops, especially the ones that require a great deal of water, like soy and rice.

Now, experts worry about the threatened wildlife and plant species that live in and around the river and rely on it to live. Experts have identified and documented hundreds of wild animal and plant species that are native to the Yangtze. One of the most at risk is the Chinese giant salamander. The salamander is one of the largest amphibians in the world, but unfortunately, their populations have declined so far that they are on the verge of extinction.

“Although they are a protected species, Chinese giant salamanders are under greater threat from climate change – increasing global temperatures and droughts will definitely do it no good when it is already extremely vulnerable,” Samuel Turvey, a British zoologist and conservationist said.

“They have for a long time faced threats like poaching, habitat loss and pollution but when you add climate change into the mix, their chances of survival become drastically thin,” he added.

“They can only live within freshwater environments and lower water levels would inevitably place greater pressure on their numbers across China.”

There has also been a steep decline of many native freshwater species of fish like the now extinct Chinese paddlefish and sturgeon.

16 years ago, one of the river’s most beloved and unique creatures was declared extinct. Often called the “Goddess of the Yangtze” the creature was so unique and beautiful that it was a special day if you saw one. The baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin, was tens of millions of years old and belonged to its own mammal family. Unfortunately, climate change and weather conditions led to the animal’s extinction.

Source: Natural History Museum/YouTube

“The Yangtze was a jewel in Asia’s crown. There is still so much biodiversity to fight for and we must not give up hope for saving species like giant salamanders, river reptiles and others,” Turvey said.

“If there’s anything we can learn from the death of the Yangtze River dolphin, it’s that extinction is forever and we can’t afford to take it lightly.”

Sign this petition to save the world’s largest freshwater turtle, the Yangtze Softshell Turtle!

Cities all over the world, from California to Vietnam, are facing droughts and climate crises. Millions of people are protesting all over the world. Read more about politics and climate change, including Manchin Restarts Talks about Climate and Social Spending Bill Previously Rejected and Climate Change Protests Take Over With Millions Continuing to Strike Across The Globe! Climate change is a top priority for young voters, and we need to care about the Green New Deal.

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