Ecosystem services for poverty alleviation under multiple stresses in mountainous Western China

This project was part of the ESPA scoping phase, which ran between 2008 and 2011. The resulting proposal for further funding was unsuccessful.

This research aimed to deliver integrated strategies for sustainably managing ecosystems for maximizing poverty reduction and increasing resilience of the poor to natural hazards, and enhanced the capacity of central and local authorities to co-ordinate and implement the management schemes by its engagement with policy/decision makers from the early consortium building stage and throughout the consortium research.

Poverty was particularly prevalent in mountainous areas, where 12.28 million poor people lived (equating to 51.9% of the total poor population). Most of the poor in China were in west and central regions, and poverty was particularly prevalent in mountainous Western China, which was characterized by its highly vulnerable ecosystem (recognised as a biodiversity 'hotspot' and a significant carbon store) to natural hazards and the impact of climate change and human interference.

High poverty levels in Western China had been attributed to growing population pressure, a low level of development, and severe land and ecological degradation through deforestation and farming on slopes. In its forestry sector, China faced the combined challenge of meeting an increasing demand for wood and other non-timber forest products (NTFPs) while at the same time considerably raising its investment in forest-based environmental services.

Climate change was projected to have significant effects on China's ecosystems, and was therefore likely to impact upon the status and distribution of ecosystem services. Assessment of such impacts was vital in order to identify regions in which adaptation to climate change could be a priority. Alpine areas were particularly vulnerable to climatic conditions, and montane ecosystems had therefore received particular attention.

In addition, central and western areas of China are tectonically active and subject to earthquakes and earthquake induced debris flow. The immediate impact of these events and the prolonged aftermath they perpetuate are a major factor in people falling into poverty.

The Great Western Development Strategy initiated in 1999 had been enhancing social and economic development of poor-stricken regions in Western Mountain China. However, the financial input could not fully meet the needs of the large number of poor populations there.

During the consortium building period, a workshop in Chengdu brought together the poor communities, local and area policy/decision makers, other stakeholders, and researchers, in order to develop partnership, better identify research needs, set up the research network, and define the project management scheme. Through a well structured multidisciplinary partnership, the consortium was set up with the aim of developing an innovative conceptual framework for analysis of sustainable management of ecosystems for poverty alleviation focusing on the mountain area of Yangtze Upper Reaches under multiple stresses in the context of accelerated global climate changes, regional natural hazards of high risk and the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

The supply of ecosystem services and its market and non-market value were identified for poverty reduction by the promotion of 'drought- and hazard- resistant' agriculture, tourism and lower carbon development, and biofuel application. Specifically, water security (availability and quality of surface water and groundwater for various uses) in the ecosystems under the impact of the Three Gorges Dam was analyzed. The biodiversity, ecosystem resilience, and their associated ecosystem services in response to high risk natural hazards and accelerated environmental changes were determined, with emphasis on natural reserves.

Lead Principal Investigator
Organisation: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Country: China
Principal Investigator
Organisation: University of East Anglia
Country: United Kingdom