Environmental Management

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 13–27

Major Ecosystems in China: Dynamics and Challenges for Sustainable Management



Ecosystems, though impacted by global environmental change, can also contribute to the adaptation and mitigation of such large scale changes. Therefore, sustainable ecosystem management is crucial in reaching a sustainable future for the biosphere. Based on the published literature and publicly accessible data, this paper discussed the status and trends of forest, grassland, and wetland ecosystems in China that play important roles in the ecological integrity and human welfare of the nation. Ecological degradation has been observed in these ecosystems at various levels and geographic locations. Biophysical (e.g., climate change) and socioeconomic factors (e.g., intensive human use) are the main reasons for ecosystem degradation with the latter factors serving as the dominant driving forces. The three broad categories of ecosystems in China have partially recovered from degradation thanks to large scale ecological restoration projects implemented in the last few decades. China, as the largest and most populated developing nation, still faces huge challenges regarding ecosystem management in a changing and globalizing world. To further improve ecosystem management in China, four recommendations were proposed, including: (1) advance ecosystem management towards an application-oriented, multidisciplinary science; (2) establish a well-functioning national ecological monitoring and data sharing mechanism; (3) develop impact and effectiveness assessment approaches for policies, plans, and ecological restoration projects; and (4) promote legal and institutional innovations to balance the intrinsic needs of ecological and socioeconomic systems. Any change in China’s ecosystem management approach towards a more sustainable one will benefit the whole world. Therefore, international collaborations on ecological and environmental issues need to be expanded.


Ecosystem change Ecosystem management science Ecosystem-society interaction Ecological restoration Forest Wetland Grassland 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yihe Lü
    • 1
  • Bojie Fu
    • 1
  • Wei Wei
    • 1
  • Xiubo Yu
    • 2
  • Ranhao Sun
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional EcologyResearch Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CASBeijingChina

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