Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of Western China
The aim of the Western China Ecosystem Assessment was to provide scientific
guidance for the successful implementation of the Western China Development
Strategy by considering multiple potential policy and management options
for sustaining ecosystems services and increasing socio-economic growth
in the region. The western region of China, which consists of 12 provinces,
is both economically lagging and ecologically fragile. Western China encompasses
approximately 6.8 million square kilometers and accounts for 70% of the
land area of China.
The study focused on mapping vital ecosystems services of the region
and determining the driving forces behind changes in these services. The
assessment found that trends varied across the vast regions of the study
area. Increases in precipitation and general climate warming were distributed
unevenly across western China, as were the effects of population pressure
and land use change. Policy and future land use scenarios were conducted
in the context of the grain-for-green land conservation programme, which
rewards farmers with grain and subsidies for converting existing cultivated
lands into forest and pasture.
The assessment identified habitat loss and degradation of grassland ecosystems
as primary threats to biodiversity in western China. Water scarcity is the
primary limiting factor for economic and other growth, especially in the
arid northwest. Increases in potential photosynthetic-thermal farmland activity
found in some of the region’s provinces were related primarily to increased
cultivation in the drylands.
The Western China Ecosystem Assessment used multi-tier ecological zoning
and established information systems to develop models for analysing ecosystem
services. Data collected from nine areas representative of “typical” ecology
and socio-economic conditions was used for in-depth assessment and modeling
on the local level. Trends and scenarios for water and food supply services
of various ecosystems, carbon storage, and biodiversity were analysed by
combining the developed models with geographical information systems (GIS).
Additionally, a method of surface modeling of population spatial distribution
(SMPD) was developed to analyse the relationship between ecosystem services
and human well-being. Integration of multi-scale information and discrepancies
with GIS data were handled through the development of high accuracy surface
The Western China Ecosystem Assessment was carried out by 22 research
teams and sub-teams. The final report for the assessment was completed in
2005. The assessment used historical data of changes in ecosystems use and
services to develop scenarios for 100 years into the future.
Funding for the Western China sub-global assessment was provided by the
Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, the
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the National
Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan.
Professor LIU Jiyuan, Director-General of the Institute of Geographical
Sciences and Natural Resources Research, was the principal researcher for
the assessment. Dr. YUE Tian Xiang is the contact person for the assessment.
- Prof. Dr. Tian Xiang YUE
Research Group Leader of Ecological Modelling and Spatially Explicit
State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environment Information Systemp>
Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research
Chinese Academy of Sciences
1111A, Datun Road, Anwai, 100101 Beijing, China
By viewing all ecosystem services of Western China simultaneously and
in an integrated manner, past and potential future impacts were assessed
comprehensively. The primary focus of this assessment was to provide guidance
for the successful implementation of the Western Development Strategy, which
strives for socio-economic development for this fragile and depressed region.
The specific and technical objectives include five aspects: to establish
a data information system, to develop methods and models, to analyze tradeoffs
among ecosystem services, to carry out studies on change detection, condition
analysis and ecosystem scenarios, and to propose specific measures for policy
implementation including environmental emergency responses.
Ecosystems services assessed
Ecological carrying capacity, ecological diversity, cultural and aesthetic
values, recreational opportunities, manure, fodder and other socio-economically
important products and services as well as relative issues including mechanisms
of regional water circulation and spatial distribution of water resources,
desertification, land-use and land-cover change, ecological protection (including
Scenarios were modeled for the following factors: terrestrial ecosystems,
land cover, food provision and population distribution. Four scenarios were
modeled, including: regional balance, environment oriented, economy oriented,
and regional imbalance scenarios. The environment oriented and regional
imbalance scenarios both indicate that regional instability would increase
as a result of economic hardship and disparities between different regions.
The economy oriented development scenario ignored the ecological needs of
the region with the predictable results of severe ecological degradation.
The regional balance scenario is based upon the successful implementation
of the Western Development Strategy, which would keep ecological deterioration
within limits for the next 50 years.
Project Outputs and Results
Major outputs of the assessment are the modeling systems and data warehouse
produced by the assessment team. The data warehouse is for standard control
of data from various sources, and can be readily updated for accuracy. Contributions
to the MA as a whole include a module of high-accuracy surface modeling
for data fusion and transformation of multi-scale information and a model-based
system concerning ecological thresholds and analysis of driving forces.
These analysis systems can be used for further ecological assessments.
The publication, Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of Western China, in
which the data assessments and modeling are documented, is a primary output
of this assessment. The published results of the assessment describe the
current status of Western China, governmental policy for its development,
and the response options available based on scenarios modeled for the next
Links to related books and articles
- Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of Western China in Chinese version,
with 1.6 million Chinese words, has been published by China Meteorological
Press. Its contact address is, Mr. LI Taiyu, No.46, Zhong-Guan-Cun South
Street, 100081 Beijing, China. Ecosystem in West China More Diverse: