China leads world in ef­forts to pro­tect bio­di­ver­sity, ecosys­tem

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

China has gone fur­ther than any other coun­try in bring­ing the science and eco­nom­ics of the en­vi­ron­ment into de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and its ef­forts are a model for the world, said an en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­en­tist at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

“In the face of deep­en­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal cri­sis, China has be­come very am­bi­tious and in­no­va­tive in its new con­ser­va­tion science and poli­cies and has im­ple­mented them on a breath­tak­ing scale,” said Gretchen Daily, pro­fes­sor of bi­ol­ogy at Stan­ford and co-au­thor of re­cent re­search on China’s bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices.

Fol­low­ing se­vere en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion from rapid eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, China is now ad­vanc­ing poli­cies to se­cure bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to the re­search re­cently pub­lished in Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences.

The re­search team used ecomap­ping soft­ware to iden­tify places of high eco­log­i­cal im­por­tance for the coun­try. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to es­tab­lish a se­ries of pro­tected ar­eas based on the re­search find­ings as part of its 21st-cen­tury eco­log­i­cal ini­tia­tive.

The re­search iden­ti­fied five vi­tal life sup­port ser­vices in China: flood con­trol, sand­storm con­trol, pro­vi­sion of abun­dant wa­ter, sta­bi­liza­tion of soil and bio­di­ver­sity.

“China has ex­pe­ri­enced some of the most devastating flood­ing in the world — and now is in­vest­ing in restor­ing forests that soak up, store and slowly re­lease the heavy mon­soonal rains that come each year,” Daily said.

This con­trol of wa­ter flow not only pro­tects lives, homes and other in­fra­struc­ture, but also im­proves the ef­fi­ciency and se­cu­rity of hy­dropower gen­er­a­tion and ir­ri­ga­tion and drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply, buffer­ing against pe­ri­ods of low sup­ply, she ex­plained.

Sim­i­larly, re­gen­er­a­tion of grass­lands and shrub lands helps hold sand par­ti­cles to the earth where they be­long and pre­vents their form­ing mas­sive sand storms, she added.

Daily also stressed the im­por­tance of sta­bi­liza­tion of soil as the key to sus­tain­ing any civ­i­liza­tion.

“It takes thou­sands of years to gen­er­ate fer­tile soil, and very few to see it wash or blow away,” she said. “This in­vest­ment is cru­cial to farm pro­duc­tiv­ity and to sus­tain­ing the many other life-sup­port ser­vices of land.”

How­ever, the na­ture re­serves en­com­pass only 10.2 per­cent — 12.5 per­cent of the source ar­eas for the key ecosys­tem ser­vices. They are con­cen­trated in western China, whereas much threat­ened species’ habi­tat and reg­u­lat­ing ser­vice source ar­eas oc­cur in east­ern prov­inces, ac­cord­ing to the re­search.

The re­searchers’ strat­egy is to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive na­tional park sys­tem — the first of its kind of China. The coun­try started to pi­lot an in­te­grated na­tional park sys­tem in nine prov­inces in 2015, aim­ing even­tu­ally to es­tab­lish a com­pre­hen­sive, na­tion­wide sys­tem to pro­tect im­por­tant nat­u­ral ecosys­tems and wildlife in China.

The re­search’s anal­y­sis will serve as a ba­sis for this new sys­tem, which is ex­pected to be for­mally pro­posed to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment this sum­mer.

China has in­vested $150 bil­lion in con­ser­va­tion and restora­tion ef­forts over the past 16 years.

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