, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 245–259 | Cite as

The impact on rural livelihoods and ecosystem services of a major relocation and settlement program: A case in Shaanxi, China

  • Cong Li
  • Shuzhuo Li
  • Marcus W. Feldman
  • Jie Li
  • Hua Zheng
  • Gretchen C. Daily


China’s largest-ever resettlement program is underway, aiming to restore ecosystems and lift ecosystem service providers out of the poverty trap and into sustainable livelihoods. We examine the impact of the relocation and settlement program (RSP) to date, reporting on an ecosystem services (ES) assessment and a 1400-household survey. The RSP generally achieves the goals of ES increase and livelihood restore. In biophysical terms, the RSP improves water quality, sediment retention, and carbon sequestration. In social terms, resettled households so far report transformation of livelihoods activities from traditional inefficient agricultural and forest production to non-farm activities. Increased income contributes to decrease the poverty rate and improve resettled households’ living condition and standard. Meanwhile, the RSP decreases households’ dependence on ES in terms of provisioning services. Difficulty and challenge also showed up subsequently after relocation. A major current challenge is to enable poorer households to move, while providing greater follow-up support to relocated households. While the program is unique to China, it illuminates widespread opportunities for addressing environmental and poverty-related concerns in a rapidly changing world.


Ankang prefecture Ecosystem services Human development Relocation and settlement Rural household Sustainable livelihoods 



This work is part of the Natural Capital Project and was jointly supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (Grant No. 3453), the China National Natural Science Fund (71673219; 71573205), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (SK2015001, SKZD16009; SKZD16004). We are grateful to the many people interviewed for their patience and assistance.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Xi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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