Long Valley is a large piece of wetland covering 37 hectares between Sheung Yue Riverand Shek Sheung River in the northern part of Sheung Shui. It was coined “Long Valley” by bird watchers before 1999. In 1999, Long Valley began to attract much public attention, when the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) proposed to construct a flyover across the wetland for Lok Ma Chau Spur Line, and environmental groups in Hong Kong protested against it. Since then, Long Valley (and its Chinese name in transliteration) became the official name of the area.
Long Valley is the largest contiguous natural floodplain in the northeast of Hong Kong. Before the 1970s, it was a prime area for paddy rice cultivation. There were also fishponds and breeding ponds for red worms and water fleas. Following the transformation of the agricultural sector after the 1970s, besides some lotus ponds, vegetable cultivation, primarily watercress and water spinach gradually overtook paddy rice production in Long Valley. As these crops required wet farming, the large wetland area was preserved despite the change, where it remained an important agricultural wetland in Hong Kong, and nurtured into a rich ecosystem. It was even an important stopover for passage migrant birds.
In the late 1990s, the KCRC planned to build a spur line, which included a flyover across Long Valley, connecting the Lok Ma Chau border. The proposal received strong opposition from environmental groups as it would threaten the local ecology. Eventually, the railway ran underground through a tunnel below Long Valley, and the landscape was preserved.
In 2005, the Conservancy Association and the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society reached a management agreement with the private landowners and local farmers in Long Valley to promote wet farming with the aim to preserve the rich biodiversity of the area. In 2019, all private farmlands were restored as public land in response to the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas project. To conserve the Long Valley wetlands and bird ecology in particular, the government set forth plans to build Long Valley Nature Park.
Long Valley is the largest contiguous freshwater wetland in Hong Kong. The marshes and ponds provide much-needed habitats and food for migratory birds during the period from October through December each year. Nearly 320 species of birds have been recorded in Long Valley, accounting for more than half of the total number of bird species in Hong Kong. Among these, 14 are globally endangered species. BirdLife International has designated Long Valley, Inner Deep Bay and Shenzhen River catchment area as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, demonstrating the significance of the rich avian resources in Long Valley.
Inaddition, the large wetland attracts a wide variety of animals that live and forage there, making it an ecologically diverse and lively area. Species of high conservation value, such as the Chinese Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus rugulosus), Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) and Crab-eating Mongoose (Herpestes urva), are commonly found in Long Valley.
Long Valley Nature Park is expected to be completed in 2023. The 37-hectare area will be divided into three zones: Biodiversity Zone (approximately 21 hectares), Agriculture Zone (approximately 11 hectares) and Visitor Zone (approximately 5 hectares).
Green Power has undertaken the management of Biodiversity Zone since 01 July 2022, when it comprised active/ inactive farmlands and ponds. After redeveloping, expanding and rebuilding the area into wet and dry agricultural lands, paddy rice fields, lotus ponds, deep water ponds, water flea ponds, marshes, reed beds, etc.,the habitats have become more diversified.
To revive even richer and more diverse wetland habitats, while retaining the original landscape and farming traditions as much as possible, we employ our extensive experience in managing and conserving the wetland, carrying out wet and dry agricultural activities and a variety of wetland management practices, such as water level monitoring, plant species and coverage management, and invasive species elimination etc.
The Biodiversity Zone extends from the centre to the east of Long Valley Nature Park. The 21-hectare zoneis even larger than Victoria Park. It houses a dozen habitat types and is home to a variety of flora and fauna.
Watercress, water spinach, Chinese arrowhead and water chestnut are planted in the wet farmlands which are filled with water most of the year. The dense vegetation makes an ideal shelter for many waterfowls, frogs, snakes, and fish.
Paddy rice fields are submerged in water most of the time, boosting the overal lwetland area in Long Valley. Rice kernels are the source of food for many birds, including the protected “Rice bird” Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola) of Mainland China.
Lotuses and waterlilies are widely cultivated. The emerged plants and floating plants create unique environments that are particularly inviting to diving ducks and grebes. It also attracts many species of frogs to feed and breed in the area during spring and summer.
With water depth of more than one metre, these ponds attract diving waterfowls. During autumn and winter, when the ponds are drained, crowds of birds will gather to feed on the small fishes at the pond bottom. Among them include the endangered, Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor).
Filled with water most of the time, these ponds attract birds that favour open habitats, such as egrets and sandpipers.
Water fleas and red worms are bred in these ponds, attracting waterfowls such as Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) and Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus).
A multitude of wetland plants is cultivated, creating microhabitats for many dragonflies and butterflies. Greater Painted-snipe (Rostratula benghalensis), a rare bird species, also build its nests and reproduce in the marshes.
Besides purifying the water, the reed beds also draw some medium- to small-sized birds. For example, reed warblers like to prey on small insects on the reed beds. Munia, on the other hand, feeds on the seeds of reeds.
Some agricultural lands have been converted to dry farmlands to enhance the overall diversity of the ecological environment. They play a different ecological role from wet farmlands, which mostly attract waterfowls. Dry farmlands provide habitats for smaller birds, such as warblers, buntings and starlings.