, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 274–284 | Cite as

Effects of Natural Disasters on Conservation Policies: The Case of the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, China

  • Andrés Viña
  • Xiaodong Chen
  • William J. McConnell
  • Wei Liu
  • Weihua Xu
  • Zhiyun Ouyang
  • Hemin Zhang
  • Jianguo Liu


Conservation policies are increasing in response to human-induced ecosystem degradation, but little is known about their interplay with natural disasters. Through an analysis of satellite imagery and field data we evaluated the impacts of a devastating earthquake on forest recovery and avoided forest loss estimated to have been obtained by two of the largest conservation programs in the world. Results show that more than 10% of the forests in Wenchuan County, Sichuan province, China were immediately affected by the 2008 earthquake, offsetting some gains in forest cover observed since the enactment of the conservation programs. But without the enactment of these conservation programs, the combined effects of human disturbance and earthquake-induced landslides could have severely reduced the region’s forest cover. The continuation—and enhancement—of incentives for participation in conservation programs will be important for reducing the environmental impacts of the combined effects of human disturbance and natural hazards not only in the study area but also in many disaster-prone regions around the world.


Conservation Grain-to-Green Program Natural disasters Natural Forest Conservation Program Payments for ecosystem services Wenchuan Earthquake 



This study was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Land Use/Land Cover Change program and Terrestrial Ecology and Biodiversity program), the U.S. National Science Foundation (Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program and Partnership for International Research and Education), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. We thank the administration and staff of Wolong Nature Reserve for their support with fieldwork logistics.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrés Viña
    • 1
  • Xiaodong Chen
    • 1
  • William J. McConnell
    • 1
  • Wei Liu
    • 1
  • Weihua Xu
    • 2
  • Zhiyun Ouyang
    • 2
  • Hemin Zhang
    • 3
  • Jianguo Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeCenter for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional EcologyResearch Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.China’s Center for Giant Panda Research and Conservation, Wolong Nature ReserveSichuanChina

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