Wednesday, August 17, 2016

China's big investment to fix environmental wrongs shows both people and nature can win

Public Release: 16-Jun-2016
China's big investment to fix environmental wrongs shows both people and nature can win
Michigan State University

China's massive investment to mitigate the ecosystem bust that has come in the wake of the nation's economic boom is paying off. An international group of scientists finds both humans and nature can thrive -- with careful attention.

The group, including scientists who have done research at Michigan State University (MSU), report on China's first systematic national accounting of how the nation's food production, carbon sequestration, soil and water retention, sandstorm prevention, flood mitigation, and biodiversity are doing, and what trends have emerged. The work, which spans from 2000-2010, appears in this week's edition of Science Magazine.


The paper notes that China's effort to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty since the 1970s came at a high cost of environmental degradation, including deforestation and erosion that resulted in devastating flooding. The National Forest Conservation Program (NFCP) and the Sloping Land Conversion Program, which started around 2000, paid farmers and households in critical areas to restore forest and grassland -- delivering alleviation of poverty in addition to environmental benefits.

In roughly the first decade, the programs cost $50 billion dollars.

The researchers examined a staggering amount of data from all of mainland China -- satellite images, field studies, historical records and more.

They found that food production and carbon sequestration were the ecosystem services that increased the most, while the programs contributed most dramatically to carbon sequestration, soil and water retention and sand fixation. They found varying gains and losses depending on what part of the country they looked at. Sometimes, there were tradeoffs -- such as food production and soil retention.


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