, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 673–686 | Cite as

Impacts of Nomad Sedentarization on Social and Ecological Systems at Multiple Scales in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China

  • Mingming Fan
  • Wenjun Li
  • Chengcheng Zhang
  • Lanhai Li


China’s government is now promoting the Nomad Sedentarization Project (NSP) in large areas of grassland as a solution for ecological restoration and poverty alleviation. To examine the effects of this policy, we conducted in-depth interviews at two of the project’s sites and examined the social and ecological systems at village, county, and catchment scales in Jinghe County of Xinjiang. We found that (1) the NSP in one village greatly improved the household standard of living and changed their resource utilization modes; (2) the success in this village can be attributed to resources imported from the social and ecological systems at larger scales, and could not be repeated in a second nearby village with different constraints; and (3) the NSP is poorly adapted to local ecosystem characteristics, and may therefore have negative impacts at larger scales. To avoid these problems, holistic assessments are necessary to judge the NSP’s impacts on social and ecological systems at multiple scales, and the program must be implemented cautiously to account for the potential risks in ecologically vulnerable areas.


Social and ecological systems Scale Sedentarization Arid area Xinjiang 



Our research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (41171428), a Ford Foundation grant and a project of Xinjiang Key Lab of Water Cycle and Utilization in Arid Zone (No. XJYS0907-2013-02). We thank Professor Yenhu Tsui of Xinjiang Normal University for his assistance, without his help, we could not have completed our field survey. We thank Geoff Hart for polishing the language of manuscript. We thank all the students of our team for their contributions to the case study analysis and for their discussion during our weekly group meetings. We are especially grateful to the families we interviewed, who remained patiently for our numerous questions.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mingming Fan
    • 1
  • Wenjun Li
    • 1
  • Chengcheng Zhang
    • 1
  • Lanhai Li
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Environmental Sciences and EngineeringPeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesÜrümqiPeople’s Republic of China

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