Environmental Quality and Sustainability

Green hills and distant city view in China

Environmental Quality & Sustainability

Nature-based solutions to China’s development challenges

Overview

While China’s remarkable industrial development has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and created a large middle class, it has also caused significant biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation, and pollution in urban and rural areas. These environmental crises threaten human health and safety and undermine long-term economic development.  

In response, China’s government is now promoting a system of ecological civilization to align environmental conservation and socio-economic development through initiatives in natural capital investment, sustainable infrastructure, biodiversity protection and renewable energy. Notably, China has committed to establishing official protection over 30% of its land by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.  

SCCEI is collaborating with the Stanford Natural Capital Project (NatCap) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences (RCEES) to advance nature-based policy solutions and support sustainable development in China and around the world. Our research focuses on four key areas: Ecological Civilization, Gross Ecosystem Product, Urban Nature and Health, and Nature and Rural Vitalization.


OUR COLLABORATORS: 

Natural Capital Project logo and Chinese Academy of Sciences logo 

Featured Projects

Great wall of China

Ecological Civilization

Ecological Civilization, a new policy system in China, is designed to align environmental conservation with socio-economic development. Our research analyzes this emerging policy framework and identifies opportunities for collaboration with government, enterprises, and civil society.
Mountains and blue lake in China

Gross Ecosystem Product

Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) is an index that aggregates the total value of ecosystem goods and services into a single monetary metric. Co-developed by NatCap and RCEES, GEP is now being piloted in China on local and national levels.
Urban China city scene with highways and sky scrapers.

Urban Nature and Health

With over 1 billion people projected to live in China’s cities by 2030, the mental and physical health of the urban population has become a top priority. Our research identifies how nature solutions can improve public health outcomes, with a focus on the role of urban greenspace.
Leaves in a wicker basket.

Nature and Rural Vitalization

China’s rural countryside faces increasing needs for both environmental and economic investment. Our research aims to coordinate investments in natural capital with investments in human capital to transform China’s countryside into a frontier of sustainable development.

SCCEI China Briefs on the Environment

Greening of People’s Republic feature

Greening of the People’s Republic: China’s Investment in Conservation

Data from China’s unprecedented ecological conservation efforts show positive outcomes in nearly all categories.
CO2 feature

Delivering on Decarbonization? Evaluating China’s New Emissions Trading System

Parsing the pros and cons of China’s unconventional, nationwide carbon emissions trading scheme.

Publications

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Journal Articles

Grassland Ecological Compensation Policy in China Improves Grassland Quality and Increases Herders’ Income

Lingling Hou, Fang Xia, Qihui Chen, Jikun Huang, Yong He, Nathan Rose, Scott Rozelle
Nature Communications, 2021 August 3, 2021

Many countries have undertaken large and high-profile payment-for-ecosystem-services (PES) programs to sustain the use of their natural resources. Nevertheless, few studies have comprehensively examined the impacts of existing PES programs. Grassland Ecological Compensation Policy (GECP) is one of the few pastorally focused PES programs with large investments and long duration, which aim to improve grassland quality and increase herder income. Here we present empirical evidence of the effects of GECP on grassland quality and herder income. Through a thorough and in-depth econometric analysis of remote sensing and household survey data, we find that, although GECP improves grassland quality (albeit to only a small extent) and has a large positive effect on income, it exacerbates existing income inequality among herders within their local communities. The analysis demonstrates that the program has induced herders to change their livestock production behavior. Heterogeneity analysis emphasizes the importance of making sure the programs are flexible and are adapted to local resource circumstances.

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Journal Articles

Spatial Models of Giant Pandas Under Current and Future Conditions Reveal Extinction Risks

Lingqiao Kong, Weihua Xu, Yi Xiao, Stuart Pimm, Hao Shi, Zhiyun Ouyang
Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2021 July 26, 2021

In addition to habitat loss and fragmentation, demographic processes—the vagaries of births, deaths and sex ratio fluctuations—pose substantial threats to wild giant panda populations. Additionally, climate change and plans for the Giant Panda National Park may influence (in opposing directions) the extinction risk for wild giant pandas. The Fourth National Giant Panda Census showed pandas living in 33 isolated populations. An estimated 259 animals live in 25 of these groups, ~14% of the total population. We used individual-based models to simulate time series of these small populations for 100 years. We analysed the spatial pattern of their risk of extinction under current conditions and multiple climate change models. Furthermore, we consider the impact of the proposed Giant Panda National Park. Results showed that 15 populations face a risk >90%, and for 3 other populations the risk is >50%. Of the 15 most at-risk populations, national parks can protect only 3. Under the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 climate change scenario, the 33 populations will probably further divide into 56 populations. Some 41 of them will face a risk >50% and 35 face a risk >90%. Although national parks will probably connect some fragmented habitats, 26 populations will be outside national park planning. Our study gives practical advice for conservation policies and management and has implications for the conservation of other species in the world that live in isolated, fragmented habitats.

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Journal Articles

Mapping the Benefits of Nature in cities with the InVEST Software

Perrine Hamel, Anne Guerry, Stephen Polasky, Baolong Han, James Douglass, Maike Hamann, Benjamin Janke, Jan Kuiper, H. Levrel, Hongxiao Liu, E. Lonsdorf, R. McDonald, CW Nootenboom, Zhiyun Ouyang, Roy Remme, R. Sharp, Lea Tardieu, Vincent Viguie, D. Xu, Hua Zheng, Gretchen Daily
npj Urban Sustainability , 2021 June 21, 2021

Natural infrastructure such as parks, forests, street trees, green roofs, and coastal vegetation is central to sustainable urban management. Despite recent progress, it remains challenging for urban decision-makers to incorporate the benefits of natural infrastructure into urban design and planning. Here, we present an approach to support the greening of cities by quantifying and mapping the diverse benefits of natural infrastructure for now and in the future. The approach relies on open-source tools, within the InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) software, that compute biophysical and socio-economic metrics relevant to a variety of decisions in data-rich or data-scarce contexts. Through three case studies in China, France, and the United States, we show how spatially explicit information about the benefits of nature enhances urban management by improving economic valuation, prioritizing land use change, and promoting inclusive planning and stakeholder dialogue. We discuss limitations of the tools, including modeling uncertainties and a limited suite of output metrics, and propose research directions to mainstream natural infrastructure information in integrated urban management.

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Journal Articles

An Ecosystem Service Perspective on Urban Nature, Physical Activity, and Health

Roy Remme, Howard Frumkin, Anne Guerry, Abby King, Lisa Mandle, Chethan Sarabu, Gregory Bratman, Billie Giles-Corti, Perrine Hamel, Baolong Han, Jennifer Hicks, Peter James, Joshua Lawler, Theresa Lindahl, Hongxiao Liu, Yi Lu, Bram Oosterbroek, Bibek Paudel, James Sallis, Jasper Schipperijn, Rok Sosic, Sjerp de Vries, Benedict Wheeler, Spencer Wood, Tong Wu, Gretchen Daily
PNAS, 2021 May 14, 2021

Nature underpins human well-being in critical ways, especially in health. Nature provides pollination of nutritious crops, purification of drinking water, protection from floods, and climate security, among other well-studied health benefits. A crucial, yet challenging, research frontier is clarifying how nature promotes physical activity for its many mental and physical health benefits, particularly in densely populated cities with scarce and dwindling access to nature. Here we frame this frontier by conceptually developing a spatial decision-support tool that shows where, how, and for whom urban nature promotes physical activity, to inform urban greening efforts and broader health assessments. We synthesize what is known, present a model framework, and detail the model steps and data needs that can yield generalizable spatial models and an effective tool for assessing the urban nature–physical activity relationship. Current knowledge supports an initial model that can distinguish broad trends and enrich urban planning, spatial policy, and public health decisions. New, iterative research and application will reveal the importance of different types of urban nature, the different subpopulations who will benefit from it, and nature’s potential contribution to creating more equitable, green, livable cities with active inhabitants.

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Policy Briefs

Tracking China's Economic Path

Hongbin Li, Scott Rozelle
2021 March 30, 2021

Stanford scholars are setting and expanding research agendas to analyze China’s economic development and its impact on the world. The newly launched Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions — co-directed by SIEPR senior fellows Hongbin Li and Scott Rozelle — is supporting their work. In this SIEPR Policy Brief, Li and Rozelle outline the research underway by the new center's affiliates.

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Journal Articles

Coastal Vulnerability to Climate Change in China’s Bohai Economic Rim

Yan Zhang, Tong Wu, Katie Arkema, Baolong Han, Fei Lu, Mary Ruckelshaus, Zhiyun Ouyang
Environment International, 2021 February 1, 2021

Climate change and human activities exert a wide range of stressors on urban coastal areas. Synthetical assessment of coastal vulnerability is crucial for effective interventions and long-term planning. However, there have been few studies based on integrative analyses of ecological and physical characteristics and socioeconomic conditions in urban coastal areas. This study developed a holistic framework for assessing coastal vulnerability from three dimensions - biophysical exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity - and applied it to the coast of Bohai Economic Rim, an extensive and important development zone in China. A composite vulnerability index (CVI) was developed for every 1 km2 segment of the total 5627 km coastline and the areas that most prone to coastal hazards were identified by mapping the distribution patterns of the CVIs in the present and under future climate change scenarios. The CVIs show a spatial heterogeneity, with higher values concentrated along the southwestern and northeastern coasts and lower values concentrated along the southern coasts. Currently, 20% of the coastlines with approximately 350,000 people are highly vulnerable to coastal hazards. With sea-level rises under the future scenarios of the year 2100, more coastlines will be highly vulnerable, and the amount of highly-threatened population was estimated to increase by 13–24%. Among the coastal cities, Dongying was categorized as having the highest vulnerability, mainly due to poor transportation and medical services and low GDP per capita, which contribute to low adaptive capacity. Our results can benefit decision-makers by highlighting prioritized areas and identifying the most important determinants of priority, facilitating location-specific interventions for climate-change adaptation and sustainable coastal management.

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Journal Articles

Valuing Natural Capital amidst Rapid Urbanization: Assessing the Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) of China’s ‘Chang-Zhu-Tan' Megacity

Ziying Zou, Tong Wu, Yi Xiao, Changsu Song, Kelin Wang, Zhiyun Ouyang
Environmental Research Letters, 2020 November 27, 2020

Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) is an aggregate measure of the monetary value of final ecosystem services, or the direct benefits that people derive from nature. In this study, we focus on the 'Chang-Zhu-Tan' (CZT) urban agglomeration—an emerging megacity of over 15 million people situated on the Yangtze River—as a case study of the dynamics of ecological production amidst rapid urbanization. In this study, we couple a spatial-temporal analysis of regional ecological change based on remote-sensing data with economic valuation methods (e.g. travel cost method) using official statistics and survey data. We find that while the land cover of natural ecosystems decreased slightly between 2000 and 2015, their quality—and therefore economic value—greatly improved. From 2000 to 2015, the GEP of CZT increased by 56.77%. In particular, the value of regulating services grew by 7.43% (calculated using inflation-adjusted prices). GEP can reflect nature's contribution to human well-being. At the same time, its long-term trends can serve as an indicator of the extent and quality of local and regional ecosystems, thereby providing a corrective or complement to more conventional measures of development. Although urbanization increases spatial constraints on the management of natural capital, progress in ecological protection and restoration can still improve the quality of ecosystems and the services they provide. Our study shows how GEP, and the value of natural capital it reflects, can grow amidst the pressures of rapid urbanization.

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Journal Articles

Ecosystem Restoration on Hainan Island: Can We Optimize for Enhancing Regulating Services and Poverty Alleviation?

Ruida Li, Hua Zheng, Stephen Polasky, Peter Hawthorne, Patrick O'Connor, Lijuan Wang, Ruonan Li, Yi Xiao, Tong Wu, Zhiyun Ouyang
Environmental Research Letters, 2020 August 7, 2020

The restoration of ecosystems provides an important opportunity to improve the provision of ecosystem services. Achieving the maximum possible benefits from restoration with a limited budget requires knowing which places if restored would produce the best combination of improved ecosystem services. Using an ecosystem services assessment and optimization algorithm, we find choices that generate maximum benefits from ecosystem restoration. We applied a set of weights to integrate multiple services into a unified approach and find the optimal land restoration option given those weights. We then systematically vary the weights to find a Pareto frontier that shows potentially optimal choices and illustrates trade-offs among services. We applied this process to evaluate optimal restoration on Hainan Island, China, a tropical island characterized by multiple ecosystem service hotspots and conditions of poverty. We analyzed restoration opportunities with the goal of increasing a provisioning service, plantation revenue, and several water-related ecosystem services that contribute to improved water quality and flood mitigation. We found obvious spatial inconsistencies in the optimal location for maximizing separate services and tradeoffs in the provision of these services. Optimized land-use patterns greatly out-performed the non-target restoration scheme. When explicit consideration of the importance of poverty alleviation was taken into account, the location of the prioritized areas shifted and trade-offs among services varied. Our study emphasizes the importance of integrating social concerns into land-use planning to mitigate conflicts and improve equity, especially in the areas where poverty and hotspots of biodiversity and ecosystem services are highly geographically coincident.

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Journal Articles

Using Gross Ecosystem Product (GEP) to Value Nature In Decision Making

Zhiyun Ouyang, Changsu Song, Hua Zheng, Gretchen Daily
PNAS, 2020 June 8, 2020

Significance
To achieve sustainable development, there is a pressing need to move beyond conventional economic measures like gross domestic product (GDP). We develop gross ecosystem product (GEP), a measure that summarizes the value of the contributions of nature to economic activity. We illustrate the calculation of GEP in Qinghai Province, China, to show that the approach is tractable both across China and globally. Known as the water tower of Asia, Qinghai is the source of the Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers and nearly two-thirds of GEP derives from water-related values. GEP was greater than GDP in Qinghai in 2000, and was three-fourths as large as GDP in 2015. China is using GEP to guide investments in ecosystem conservation and restoration.

Abstract
Gross domestic product (GDP) summarizes a vast amount of economic information in a single monetary metric that is widely used by decision makers around the world. However, GDP fails to capture fully the contributions of nature to economic activity and human well-being. To address this critical omission, we develop a measure of gross ecosystem product (GEP) that summarizes the value of ecosystem services in a single monetary metric. We illustrate the measurement of GEP through an application to the Chinese province of Qinghai, showing that the approach is tractable using available data. Known as the “water tower of Asia,” Qinghai is the source of the Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow Rivers, and indeed, we find that water-related ecosystem services make up nearly two-thirds of the value of GEP for Qinghai. Importantly most of these benefits accrue downstream. In Qinghai, GEP was greater than GDP in 2000 and three-fourths as large as GDP in 2015 as its market economy grew. Large-scale investment in restoration resulted in improvements in the flows of ecosystem services measured in GEP (127.5%) over this period. Going forward, China is using GEP in decision making in multiple ways, as part of a transformation to inclusive, green growth. This includes investing in conservation of ecosystem assets to secure provision of ecosystem services through transregional compensation payments.

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Journal Articles

Focusing on Rapid Urbanization Areas Can Control the Rapid Loss of Migratory Water Bird Habitats in China

Lu Zhang, Zhiyun Ouyang
Global Ecology and Conservation, 2019 September 26, 2019

Over 240 migratory water bird species depend on China's 18,000 km coastline as a vital stopover area. However, the rapid loss of natural wetlands has threatened this seasonal water bird migration over the last few decades. In the present study, to improve our understanding of the pattern and amount of habitat loss in key stopover areas (KSAs) and the spatial covariance between habitat loss and economic development, we conducted a spatially explicit evaluation of coastal habitat loss in KSAs and explored its relationship with social and economic dynamics along the China coast by integrating high-spatial resolution satellite imagery with an updated coastal water bird investigation data set. The remote sensing survey detected a habitat loss percentage of 19.4% in the KSAs during 2000 and 2010. Aquaculture, urbanization, and land reclamation were responsible for the most severe disturbances to coastal habitats. These results demonstrate that the losses of wetland habitats in the KSAs in Chinese coastal areas are more severe than those in other coastal areas even though more protective measures have been implemented in these areas. Risk-based analysis showed that the risk of habitat loss was greatest in undeveloped regions with rich natural wetland and large populations, thereby demonstrating the critical importance of shifting the focus of water bird conservation to these regions to ensure the conservation of migratory water birds in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. These findings disagree with the hypothesis that more habitats are lost when the economy is more developed. Therefore, we suggest that focusing conservation decisions on areas undergoing urbanization might improve the effectiveness of conservation measures given the pressures due to various forms of wetland exploitation.

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Journal Articles

Nature and Mental Health: An Ecosystem Service Perspective

Gregory Bratman, Christopher Anderson, Marc Berman, Bobby Cochran, Sjerp De Vries, Jon Flanders, Carl Folke, Howard Frumkin, James Gross, Terry Hartig, Peter Kahn Jr., Ming Kuo, Joshua Lawler, Phillip Levin, Therese Lindahl, Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Richard Mitchell, Zhiyun Ouyang, Jenny Roe, Lynn Scarlett, Jeffrey Smith, Matilda Van Den Bosch, Benedict Wheeler, Mathew White, Hua Zheng, Gretchen Daily
Science Advances, 2019 July 24, 2019

A growing body of empirical evidence is revealing the value of nature experience for mental health. With rapid urbanization and declines in human contact with nature globally, crucial decisions must be made about how to preserve and enhance opportunities for nature experience. Here, we first provide points of consensus across the natural, social, and health sciences on the impacts of nature experience on cognitive functioning, emotional well-being, and other dimensions of mental health. We then show how ecosystem service assessments can be expanded to include mental health, and provide a heuristic, conceptual model for doing so.

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Journal Articles

Improvements in Ecosystem Services From Investments in Natural Capital

Zhiyun Ouyang, Hua Zheng, Yi Xiao, Stephen Polasky, Jianguo Liu, Weihua Xu, Qiao Wang, Lu Zhang, Yang Xiao, Enming Rao, Ling Jiang, Fei Lu, Xiaoke Wang, Guangbin Yang, Shihan Gong, Bingfang Wu, Yuan Zeng, Wu Yang, Gretchen Daily
PNAS, 2017 January 30, 2017

China recently completed its first National Ecosystem Assessment covering the period 2000–2010. Ouyang et al. present the main findings of the assessment. Investment in the restoration and preservation of natural capital has resulted in improvements at the national level in most of the major ecosystem services measured. In particular, food production, carbon sequestration, and soil retention showed strong gains; on the other hand, habitat provision for biodiversity showed a gradual decline. Regional differences remain nonetheless, and there are serious environmental challenges still to be met in areas such as air quality and the wider global footprint of raw material imports.

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Journal Articles

Strengthening Protected Areas for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in China

Weihua Xu, Yi Xiao, Jingjing Zhang, Wu Yang, Lu Zhang, Vanessa Hull, Zhi Wang, Hua Zheng, Jianguo Liu, Stephen Polasky, Ling Jiang, Yang Xiao, Xuewei Shi, Enming Rao, Fei Lu, Xiaoke Wang, Gretchen Daily, Zhiyun Ouyang
PNAS, 2017 January 30, 2017

Significance
Following severe environmental degradation from rapid economic development, China is now advancing policies to secure biodiversity and ecosystem services. We report the first nationwide assessment, showing that protected areas (PAs) are not well delineated to protect either biodiversity or key ecosystem services. This serious deficiency exists in many countries. We propose creating a national park system in China to help guide development along a path of green growth, improving the well-being of both people and nature. This involves establishing new, strictly protected PAs for biodiversity and ecosystem services that are highly sensitive to human impacts, as well as a new PA category—in China and ideally worldwide—for integrating biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human activities to achieve sustainable development goals.

Abstract
Recent expansion of the scale of human activities poses severe threats to Earth’s life-support systems. Increasingly, protected areas (PAs) are expected to serve dual goals: protect biodiversity and secure ecosystem services. We report a nationwide assessment for China, quantifying the provision of threatened species habitat and four key regulating services—water retention, soil retention, sandstorm prevention, and carbon sequestration—in nature reserves (the primary category of PAs in China). We find that China’s nature reserves serve moderately well for mammals and birds, but not for other major taxa, nor for these key regulating ecosystem services. China’s nature reserves encompass 15.1% of the country’s land surface. They capture 17.9% and 16.4% of the entire habitat area for threatened mammals and birds, but only 13.1% for plants, 10.0% for amphibians, and 8.5% for reptiles. Nature reserves encompass only 10.2–12.5% of the source areas for the four key regulating services. They are concentrated in western China, whereas much threatened species’ habitat and regulating service source areas occur in eastern provinces. Our analysis illuminates a strategy for greatly strengthening PAs, through creating the first comprehensive national park system of China. This would encompass both nature reserves, in which human activities are highly restricted, and a new category of PAs for ecosystem services, in which human activities not impacting key services are permitted. This could close the gap in a politically feasible way. We also propose a new category of PAs globally, for sustaining the provision of ecosystems services and achieving sustainable development goals.

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Journal Articles

Formulating a List of Sites of Waterbird Conservation Significance to Contribute to China’s Ecological Protection Red Line

Lu Zhang, Xin Wang, Junjian Zhang, Zhiyun Ouyang, Simba Chan, Mike Crosby, Doug Watkins, Jonathan Martinez, Liying Su, Yat-Tung Yu, Judit Szabo, Lei Cao, Anthony Fox
Bird Conservation International, 2017 January 7, 2017

China makes a unique and vital contribution to maintaining global and regional waterbird diversity and conservation. Despite considerable historical conservation efforts, the continued loss of waterbird diversity and abundance necessitates a contemporary review of Chinese sites of conservation significance. The Ecological Protection Red Line (EPRL) was proposed by China’s Central Government in 2013 to protect areas providing crucial ecosystem services and provides the opportunity for such a review to enhance waterbird conservation in China. By incorporating various sources of data, surveys and information, we identified a suite of sites of waterbird conservation significance in China, following the Ramsar Site Criteria/Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) Criteria. In total, we identified 422 sites, of which the existing 286 IBA sites formed the basis of the site safeguard network. Altogether, these sites of waterbird conservation significance constitute over 727,000 km2 (7.6% of China’s land surface). Over half of the area of these sites is outside China’s national nature reserves, thus confirming the importance and urgency of including them in the EPRL for the effective conservation of waterbird sites. We suggest that this assessment of sites of waterbird importance offers a useful model to apply to other taxa, such as terrestrial birds and mammals.

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Journal Articles

Habitat Conservation Redlines for the Giant Pandas in China

Lingqiao Kong, Weihua Xu, Lu Zhang, Minghao Gong, Yi Xiao, Zhiyun Ouyang
Biological Conservation, 2016 April 20, 2016

Considering the impossibility to cover the entire population of an endangered species in protected areas, a new approach (species conservation redlines) was recently been proposed in China. It constitutes the baseline space for species conservation but mapping and managing a species redline is not clear. In this study, a procedure on how to map habitat conservation redlines for the endangered giant panda was proposed. Panda habitat was first modeled based on field survey and remotely sensed data. Redline area was proposed after comparing three different scenarios, covering different proportions of panda habitat and populations. Results showed that the proposed redline area covered 9358 km2. This area can protect more than 80% of the populations in all mountain regions in the study area, while keeping the connectivity of the habitat. The current nature reserves cover 60% of the redline area. Suggestions on how to manage redline areas inside and outside reserves are proposed, to limit human development activities in panda habitat. Our study provided a new approach for managing panda habitat, and would have implications for conservation of other endangered species in China and the world.

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Journal Articles

The Impact of Socio-demographic, Environmental, and Individual Factors on Urban Park Visitation in Beijing, China

Hongxiao Liu, Feng Li, Lianfang Xu, Baolong Han
Journal of Cleaner Production, 2015 September 12, 2015

Urban parks improve quality of life by providing an array of cultural and natural ecosystem services, such as maintaining biodiversity, reducing air pollution, and benefiting residents' physical and mental states. Although government invests a large amount of capital into park management, parks are still underused in many cases. In this study, the association and relative importance of socio-demographic, environmental, and individual factors were investigated with regards to their impact on citizens' park visitation. Data was collected through cross-sectional door-to-door questionnaires and online databases, and was analyzed using a hierarchical regression model. Results showed that physical exercise (27.4% of collected reports) and rest and relaxation (26.7%) were the two most widespread reasons for park use. When asked about constraints of park visitation, time limitations were reported as being the most constraining factor. However, our quantitative analysis found no significant correlation. Socio-demographic, environmental, and individual variables explained 1%, 20% and 26% (adjusted R2) of the total variance in frequency of park visitation between participants, respectively. A citizen's neighborhood greenspace, housing price, and distance from the nearest park were negatively correlated with park use. Among individual factors, a participant's reported affinity for park visits, time spent in their residential greenspace, and number of children under seven were positively correlated with park visitation, with a decreasingβcoefficient. This research highlights the predominant contribution of attitude over accessibility factors when it comes to park visitation. Furthermore, the data indicates that accessibility factors function differently for frequent, infrequent, and moderate park users and provision with parks within 1000 m of their home is recommended. The findings have implications for park management and future research.

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Journal Articles

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services Informing Decisions: From Promise to Practice

Anne Guerry, Stephen Polasky, Jane Lubchenco, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Gretchen Daily, Robert Griffin, Mary Ruckelshaus, Ian Bateman, Anantha Duraiappah, Thomas Elmqvist, Marcus Feldman, Carl Folke, Jon Hoekstra, Peter Kareiva, Bonnie Keeler, Shuzhuo Li, Emily McKenzie, Zhiyun Ouyang, Belinda Reyers, Taylor Ricketts, Johan Rockstrom, Heather Tallis, Bhaskar Vira
PNAS, 2015 June 15, 2015

The central challenge of the 21st century is to develop economic, social, and governance systems capable of ending poverty and achieving sustainable levels of population and consumption while securing the life-support systems underpinning current and future human well-being. Essential to meeting this challenge is the incorporation of natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides into decision-making. We explore progress and crucial gaps at this frontier, reflecting upon the 10 y since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. We focus on three key dimensions of progress and ongoing challenges: raising awareness of the interdependence of ecosystems and human well-being, advancing the fundamental interdisciplinary science of ecosystem services, and implementing this science in decisions to restore natural capital and use it sustainably. Awareness of human dependence on nature is at an all-time high, the science of ecosystem services is rapidly advancing, and talk of natural capital is now common from governments to corporate boardrooms. However, successful implementation is still in early stages. We explore why ecosystem service information has yet to fundamentally change decision-making and suggest a path forward that emphasizes: (i) developing solid evidence linking decisions to impacts on natural capital and ecosystem services, and then to human well-being; (ii) working closely with leaders in government, business, and civil society to develop the knowledge, tools, and practices necessary to integrate natural capital and ecosystem services into everyday decision-making; and (iii) reforming institutions to change policy and practices to better align private short-term goals with societal long-term goals.

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Journal Articles

Impacts of Conservation and Human Development Policy Across Stakeholders and Scales

Cong Li, Hua Zheng, Shuzhuo Li, Gretchen Daily
PNAS, 2015 June 15, 2015

Significance
Understanding costs and benefits to multiple stakeholders, and how they change through time, is essential to designing effective conservation and human development policies. Where, when, and to whom benefits are delivered are rarely analyzed, however. We examine one of China’s conservation–development policies—the Relocation and Settlement Program of Shaanxi Province (RSP)—drawing insights of broad relevance. Although the RSP benefits the municipal government, downstream water consumers, and global beneficiaries, the short-run costs to local households and the municipal government greatly exceed these benefits. Moreover, poor households are unable to pay the upfront costs and have difficulty participating. The RSP is well designed to reduce local ecological pressure and enhance human development, but its effectiveness could be strengthened in key ways.

Abstract
Ideally, both ecosystem service and human development policies should improve human well-being through the conservation of ecosystems that provide valuable services. However, program costs and benefits to multiple stakeholders, and how they change through time, are rarely carefully analyzed. We examine one of China’s new ecosystem service protection and human development policies: the Relocation and Settlement Program of Southern Shaanxi Province (RSP), which pays households who opt voluntarily to resettle from mountainous areas. The RSP aims to reduce disaster risk, restore important ecosystem services, and improve human well-being. We use household surveys and biophysical data in an integrated economic cost–benefit analysis for multiple stakeholders. We project that the RSP will result in positive net benefits to the municipal government, and to cross-region and global beneficiaries over the long run along with environment improvement, including improved water quality, soil erosion control, and carbon sequestration. However, there are significant short-run relocation costs for local residents so that poor households may have difficulty participating because they lack the resources to pay the initial costs of relocation. Greater subsidies and subsequent supports after relocation are necessary to reduce the payback period of resettled households in the long run. Compensation from downstream beneficiaries for improved water and from carbon trades could be channeled into reducing relocation costs for the poor and sharing the burden of RSP implementation. The effectiveness of the RSP could also be greatly strengthened by early investment in developing human capital and environment-friendly jobs and establishing long-term mechanisms for securing program goals. These challenges and potential solutions pervade ecosystem service efforts globally.

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Journal Articles

Realizing the Values of Natural Capital for Inclusive,Sustainable Development: Informing China’s New Ecological Development Strategy

Cong Li, Hua Zheng, Shuzhuo Li, Gretchen Daily
PNAS, 2015 June 15, 2015

Significance
Understanding costs and benefits to multiple stakeholders, and how they change through time, is essential to designing effective conservation and human development policies. Where, when, and to whom benefits are delivered are rarely analyzed, however. We examine one of China’s conservation–development policies—the Relocation and Settlement Program of Shaanxi Province (RSP)—drawing insights of broad relevance. Although the RSP benefits the municipal government, downstream water consumers, and global beneficiaries, the short-run costs to local households and the municipal government greatly exceed these benefits. Moreover, poor households are unable to pay the upfront costs and have difficulty participating. The RSP is well designed to reduce local ecological pressure and enhance human development, but its effectiveness could be strengthened in key ways.

Abstract
Ideally, both ecosystem service and human development policies should improve human well-being through the conservation of ecosystems that provide valuable services. However, program costs and benefits to multiple stakeholders, and how they change through time, are rarely carefully analyzed. We examine one of China’s new ecosystem service protection and human development policies: the Relocation and Settlement Program of Southern Shaanxi Province (RSP), which pays households who opt voluntarily to resettle from mountainous areas. The RSP aims to reduce disaster risk, restore important ecosystem services, and improve human well-being. We use household surveys and biophysical data in an integrated economic cost–benefit analysis for multiple stakeholders. We project that the RSP will result in positive net benefits to the municipal government, and to cross-region and global beneficiaries over the long run along with environment improvement, including improved water quality, soil erosion control, and carbon sequestration. However, there are significant short-run relocation costs for local residents so that poor households may have difficulty participating because they lack the resources to pay the initial costs of relocation. Greater subsidies and subsequent supports after relocation are necessary to reduce the payback period of resettled households in the long run. Compensation from downstream beneficiaries for improved water and from carbon trades could be channeled into reducing relocation costs for the poor and sharing the burden of RSP implementation. The effectiveness of the RSP could also be greatly strengthened by early investment in developing human capital and environment-friendly jobs and establishing long-term mechanisms for securing program goals. These challenges and potential solutions pervade ecosystem service efforts globally.

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Books

Assessment of the Development of Groundwater Market in Rural China

Jinxia Wang, Lijuang Zhang, Qiuqiong Huang, Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle
Water Markets for the 21st Century: What Have We Learned?, 2014 July 14, 2014

Abstract: Using field survey data collected by the authors, this chapter first describes groundwater markets in northern China that have been developing rapidly in the past two decades. Groundwater markets in the area are informal, localized and mostly unregulated. There is little price discrimination, and institutional characteristics tend to be similar in both high- and low-income villages. The privatization of tubewells is one of the most important driving forces encouraging the development of groundwater markets.

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Books

The Role of Agriculture in China's Development: Performance, policy determinants of success, and lessons for Africa

Jikun Huang, Scott Rozelle
Frontiers in Food Policy: Perspectives on sub-Saharan Africa, 2014 April 6, 2014

The lost decades for China in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s look remarkably like the lost decades of Africa in the 1980s an 1990s.  Poor land rights, weak incentives, incomplete markets and inappropriate investment portfolios.  However, China burst out of its stagnation in the 1980s and has enjoyed three decades of remarkable growth.  In this paper we examine the record of the development of China's food economy and identify the policies that helped generate the growth and transformation of agriculture.  Incentives, markets and strategic investments by the state were key.

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Journal Articles

Benefits, Costs, and Livelihood Implications of a Regional Payment for Ecosystem Service Program

Hua Zheng, Brian Robinson, Yi-Cheng Liang, Gretchen Daily
PNAS, 2013 September 3, 2013

Despite broad interest in using payment for ecosystem services to promote changes in the use of natural capital, there are few expost assessments of impacts of payment for ecosystem services programs on ecosystem service provision, program cost, and changes in livelihoods resulting from program participation. In this paper, we evaluate the Paddy Land-to-Dry Land (PLDL) program in Beijing, China, and associated changes in service providers’ livelihood activities. The PLDL is a land use conversion program that aims to protect water quality and quantity for the only surface water reservoir that serves Beijing, China’s capital city with nearly 20 million residents. Our analysis integrates hydrologic data with household survey data and shows that the PLDL generates benefits of improved water quantity and quality that exceed the costs of reduced agricultural output. The PLDL has an overall benefit–cost ratio of 1.5, and both downstream beneficiaries and upstream providers gain from the program. Household data show that changes in livelihood activities may offset some of the desired effects of the program through increased expenditures on agricultural fertilizers. Overall, however, reductions in fertilizer leaching from land use change dominate so that the program still has a positive net impact on water quality. This program is a successful example of water users paying upstream landholders to improve water quantity and quality through land use change. Program evaluation also highlights the importance of considering behavioral changes by program participants.

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Journal Articles

Evidence on the Impact of Sustained Exposure to Air Pollution on Life Expectancy from China's Hua River Policy

Yuyu Chen, Avraham Ebenstein, Michael Greenstone, Hongbin Li
PNAS, 2013 August 6, 2013
This paper's findings suggest that an arbitrary Chinese policy that greatly increases total suspended particulates (TSPs) air pollution is causing the 500 million residents of Northern China to lose more than 2.5 billion life years of life expectancy. The quasi-experimental empirical approach is based on China’s Huai River policy, which provided free winter heating via the provision of coal for boilers in cities north of the Huai River but denied heat to the south. Using a regression discontinuity design based on distance from the Huai River, we find that ambient concentrations of TSPs are about 184 μg/m3 [95% confidence interval (CI): 61, 307] or 55% higher in the north. Further, the results indicate that life expectancies are about 5.5 y (95% CI: 0.8, 10.2) lower in the north owing to an increased incidence of cardiorespiratory mortality. More generally, the analysis suggests that long-term exposure to an additional 100 μg/m3 of TSPs is associated with a reduction in life expectancy at birth of about 3.0 y (95% CI: 0.4, 5.6).
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Journal Articles

Securing Natural Capital and Human Well-Being: Innovation and Impact in China

Gretchen Daily, Ouyang Zhiyun, Zheng Hua, Li Shuzhuo, Wang Yukuan, Marcus Feldman, Peter Kareiva, Stephen Polasky, Mary Ruckelshaus
Acta Ecologica Sinica, 2013 February 1, 2013

Key Words: ecological security, ecosystem services, InVEST models, payments for ecosystem services (PES), poverty alleviation, sustainable livelihoods

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Journal Articles

Rural Household Income and Inequality under the Sloping Land Conversion Program in Western China

Jie Li, Marcus Feldman, Shuzhuo Li, Gretchen Daily
PNAS, 2011 April 25, 2011

As payment for ecosystem services (PES) programs proliferate globally, assessing their impact upon households’ income and livelihood patterns is critical. The Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP) is an exceptional PES program, in terms of its ambitious biophysical and socioeconomic objectives, large geographic scale, numbers of people directly affected, and duration of operation. The SLCP has now operated in the poor mountainous areas in China for 10 y and offers a unique opportunity for policy evaluation. Using survey data on rural households’ livelihoods in the southern mountain area in Zhouzhi County, Shaanxi Province, we carry out a statistical analysis of the effects of PES and other factors on rural household income. We analyze the extent of income inequality and compare the socio-demographic features and household income of households participating in the SLCP with those that did not. Our statistical analysis shows that participation in SLCP has significant positive impacts upon household income, especially for low- and medium-income households; however, participation also has some negative impacts on the low- and medium-income households. Overall, income inequality is less among households participating in the SLCP than among those that do not after 7 y of the PES program. Different income sources have different effects on Gini statistics; in particular, wage income has opposite effects on income inequality for the participating and nonparticipating households. We find, however, that the SLCP has not increased the transfer of labor toward nonfarming activities in the survey site, as the government expected.

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