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Dynamics of land use and land cover changes in China

A key contribution of environmental economics to policy making has been to provide empirical indicators of sustainable economic development. An economy is (weakly) sustainable if it saves more than the combined depreciation of its stocks of natural capital and produced capital. Thus, these indicators allow trade-offs where, for example, natural capital might be depreciated in order to build up other forms of capital, such as in the built environment or in the form of human capital. As an application of this general idea, this thesis focuses on the trade-offs between ecosystem services, provided by natural capital, and certain land use and land cover changes (LUCC) in China. With better understanding of these trade-offs, this thesis contributes to optimum management for sustaining ecosystem services and supporting socio-economic development. The three case study areas are Hebei, Qinghai and Shandong provinces. I study trade-offs between landscape diversity and crop production, between grassland quality and livestock production, and between net primary productivity (NPP, a measure of the energy that enters ecosystems) and urbanization. After reviewing trade-off analyses of ecosystem services for sustainable land-use management (Chapter 2), the case studies are presented, with two chapters on Hebei, one on Qinghai, and three on Shandong. These chapters have econometric models for monitoring and assessing LUCC-induced ecosystem service changes, to enable quantitative analysis of the mechanisms available for policy-oriented optimum land-use management. The case study areas each have different policy interventions that are designed to preserve or restore natural capital. For example, Hebei has ecological restoration programs, such as the Green for Grain program, that are implemented in an attempt to conserve landscape diversity. Qinghai province has policies of enhancing ecological restoration for grassland conservation, in order to improve livestock production. Shandong province has enforced a prime cropland preservation policy in order to ensure high cropland productivity. Collectively, the case studies add to the literature on the use of sustainable land-use management strategies, while helping to illustrate some of the trade-offs that are central to environmental economics. The results highlight issues created by conversion of cultivated land to urban use, in both Hebei and Shandong. In Qinghai province, grassland degradation, livestock production and farmers’ income interact and affect LUCC and changes in ecosystem services. Restorative interventions, such as nature reserves, seem to have a positive effect on NPP, as a measure of ecosystem productivity. On the other hand, in Shandong province there is relatively low land productivity, as measured by the NPP, in regions covered by built-up area. While this thesis does not calculate a value for the produced capital and human capital in built-up areas, the reduction in the value of natural capital as a result of urbanization highlights the potential trade-offs and the need for careful measurement to help whether China is on a sustainable development path. In summary, the research in this thesis examines various land-use practices and management regimes for conserving ecosystem services, and contributes to the literature on how management of land use change and land cover change can influence ecosystem services in rapidly urbanizing China.
Type of thesis
Deng, X. (2018). Dynamics of land use and land cover changes in China (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12309
The University of Waikato
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