Maolan was listed as a biosphere reserve in 1996. It lies in the Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Guizhou Province. It covers an area of 20,000 ha, with a forest coverage of 88.61%.

The Maolan Biosphere Reserve is renowned for its 'hugging trees' which cling tenaciously to the rocks of this mountain landscape. The rich biodiversity of this biosphere reserve also includes pheasants as well as orchids and magnolias. The Yao, Buyi and Shui indigenous peoples who live in this region value their environment and cohabit harmoniously with nature.

Would you like to know more about the hugging trees? 
Listen to HE Huming and ZHANG Ling talk about the Maolan biosphere reserve in this podcast.

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Podcast Maolan
Learn about the hugging trees of the Maolan Biosphere Reserve. Listen to this podcast.
Holy forest

For indigenous people living in these mountains the trees provide vital resources. Local communities revere them as sacred gods, and for over 1,000 years have performed ceremonial practices and rituals to care for the trees.


species of vascular plants, over 586 species of vertebrated animals and around 266 species of birds have been recorded here in recent studies. Among emblematic plants, the biosphere reserve hosts the very old plant on Earth, commonly called the ‘Giant panda of the plant kingdom’ (Kmeria septentrionalis).

The emerald belt

Most of the land from west to east along the 25o northern latitude is desert or arid landscape. The forest found in Maolan is an exception, as the sole primary forest in the subtropical zone.

A paradise for scientific research

The unique geographical situation of the biosphere reserve, including a warm and humid climate influenced by local karst geology, makes it a natural paradise for scientists studying karst forests, its unique vegetation and animals, and its peculiar microclimate.

Hugging trees

In the absence of fertile soil, hundreds of hectares of primary forest cling to the mountainsides, with their tree roots driven into the rock face to absorb nutrients underneath. The huge boulders hold into place thanks to the surrounding trees, forming ‘hugging trees’.