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Traditional Livelihoods, Conservation and Meadow Ecology in Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan, China

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Abstract

Jiuzhaigou National Park (JNP) is a site of global conservation significance. Conservation policies in JNP include the implementation of two national reforestation programs to increase forest cover and the exclusion of local land-use. We use archaeological excavation, ethnographic interviews, remote sensing and vegetation surveys to examine the implications of these policies for non-forest, montane meadows. We find that Amdo Tibetan people cultivated the valley for >2,000 years, creating and maintaining meadows through land clearing, burning and grazing. Meadows served as sites for gathering plants and mushrooms and over 40 % of contemporary species are ethnobotanically useful. Remote sensing analyses indicate a substantial (69.6 %) decline in meadow area between 1974 and 2004. Respondents report a loss of their “true history” and connections to the past associated with loss of meadows. Conservation policies intended to preserve biodiversity are unintentionally contributing to the loss of these ecologically and culturally significant meadow habitats.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the residents of Jiuzhaigou who patiently answered our questions and guided us around their environment. Assistance from Professors Tang Ya, Ren Peiyu and Zeng Zongyong, Sichuan University, and Park Superintendent Zhang Xiaoping and Deng Guiping, Jiuzhaigou National Park, are greatly appreciated. We would like to thank Lucy Gelb and Miriam Rothenberg for assistance with map creation. Funding was provided by the by the International Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2010DFA91280), the “111” Project (B08037), the National Science Foundation’s Program in Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (0333408) and the University of Washington-Sichuan University Exchange Program. Schmidt was funded by a US Fulbright Grant while conducting some research for this project.

Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Debra Friedman, whose vision provided the catalyst for our work.

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Correspondence to Lauren Urgenson.

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Urgenson, L., Schmidt, A.H., Combs, J. et al. Traditional Livelihoods, Conservation and Meadow Ecology in Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan, China. Hum Ecol 42, 481–491 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9650-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9650-z

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