Assessing China’s Ecological Restoration Programs: What’s Been Done and What Remains to Be Done?

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Abstract

This article surveys the recent literature that has assessed China’s ecological restoration programs, including the Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP) and the Natural Forest Protection Program (NFPP). Our presumption is that the performance of these programs should be determined by their effectiveness of implementation and significance of impact. Implementation effectiveness can be measured with such indicators as land area converted or conserved, and survival and stocking rates of restored vegetation, while impact significance can be gauged by the induced changes in ecosystem functionality and stability (erosion control, biodiversity protection, etc.) and socioeconomic conditions. Coupling this matrix with an exhaustive search of the publications, we find that: (1) the implementation effectiveness has not been examined as extensively as the impact significance; (2) efforts to assess the impact significance have concentrated on the SLCP, particularly its socioeconomic effects: growth of income, alternative industry, and employment, and likelihood of re-conversion; and (3) most of the socioeconomic studies are based on rural household surveys and discrete choice and difference in differences models. While much has been learned from previous studies, a lot more needs to be done in improving our understanding of the program execution and impacts. Future work should pay more attention to the NFPP and other programs, and the environmental impacts and the implementation effectiveness of all of them. To these ends, analysts must gather more field data regarding the evolving ecosystem conditions and socioeconomic information of higher aggregation, and conduct their research across scales and disciplines, with better application of geospatial technology and more effective modeling.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (project 0624018). The authors are grateful for the comments and suggestions made by four reviewers and the Editor of this journal as well as many participants of the International Symposium on Evaluating China’s Ecological Restoration Programs, held on October 19, 2007, in Beijing. They also appreciate Erin Shi for her assistance.

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Correspondence to Runsheng Yin.

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Yin, R., Yin, G. & Li, L. Assessing China’s Ecological Restoration Programs: What’s Been Done and What Remains to Be Done?. Environmental Management 45, 442–453 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-009-9387-4

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Keywords

  • Ecological restoration
  • Effectiveness of implementation
  • Significance of impact
  • Environmental and socioeconomic changes
  • Integrated assessment