The average elevation is more than 3,000 meters above sea level, varying from 1,650 meters to 6,860 meters, while 54 percent of the area is between 4,000 and 5,000 meters. The province is divided into the Qilian Mountains, the Qaidam Basin, and the Qingnan Plateau.
Climate: It has a plateau continental climate thanks to its elevation, topography, latitude and atmospheric circulation. The province has a long and not-cold winter and a short and cool summer. The precipitation also varies noticeably, the southeast area receiving 450-600 ml of rainfalls annually.
A total of 125 minerals have had their deposits verified. Of these, 50 are among the top ten in terms of reserves in the country and 11, including potassium chloride and magnesium salts, have the largest deposits of their kinds in China. Of the 45 urgently needed minerals in China, 21 have been found in the province, their deposits all ranking among the top ten in the country. In addition, Qinghai has more than 30 salt lakes with proved reserves of 70 billion tons. Qinghai is also rich in nonferrous metals and non-metallic minerals. Its asbestos reserve leads other provinces and regions in China. The famed Qaidam Basin is abundant in natural gas and oil. There are 16 oilfields and six gas fields. The total oil reserve is 1.244 billion tons, of which 200 million tons has been explored; the explored gas reserve is 47.2 billion cubic meters.
Hydraulic energy: The province has 178 hydropower stations with a total installed generation capacity of 21.66 million kw, which has an exploitable capacity of 18 million kw, and generate 77 billion kwh annually. The province plans to build seven more medium-sized hydropower stations, which, with a total installed generation capacity of 11 million kw, will produce 36.8 billion kwh each year. The construction cost of each power station in Qinghai is 20-40 percent lower than that of the national average. The province is also rich in solar, wind and geothermal energy.
Qinghai is one of the five major pasturelands in China. It boasts 31.6 million hectares of grazing land, accounting for 15 percent of the country’s total. Among the 940 species of grass growing in its grasslands, 190 species are of high nutrition with crude protein, crude fat and low coarse fiber. The livestock includes sheep, yak, horse, camel and goat, all cold-resistant. Qinghai’s domestic yaks top the country in number and account for one-third of the world’s total.
Wild animals and plants:
Of the wild plants discovered in Qinghai, some 1,000 have economic value, including over 100 medicinal herbs. Its Chinese caterpillar fungus, in particular, is famous in China and abroad. Qinghai has 290 kinds of birds and 109 species of mammal beasts, 21 of them being under first-class state protection, 53 being under second-class state protection, 36 being under provincial protection, and 22 having been listed in the International Trade Convention on Endangered Wild Animals and Plants, Appendixes I and II.
Qinghai features ethnic custom tours unique to the plateau. It has over ten scenic spots including the Birds Islet, the Mengda Natural Reserves, Ta'er Monastery, snow-capped A’Nyemaqen Mountain, Sun-and-Moon Hill, and Longyang Gorge Reservoir, the largest artificial reservoir in China, and the Dulan International Game Land.
Environment and current issues
Soil erosion, water shortage, and deforestation. Qinghai is the original place of several rivers and is thus important to the ecological balance of the entire region. In the coming 15 years, the province will improve its conservation of the ecological balance, including the protection of the water and soil in six areas: the sources of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, Qinghai Lake, the arid mountains in the east, the Longyang Gorge Reservoir, and the Qaidam Basin. It is necessary not only to strengthen the protection of natural forests, grasslands, and other sources of wild plants and animals but also to increase the restoration of deteriorated grasslands and the construction of shelter-forests. It is also necessary to increase water and soil conservation and keep the water sources clean. The target is to build a more beautiful Qinghai by the mid-21st century.