Grassland Management in China: Countermeasures to Reverse Degradation*

China Economist - - Articles - Li Zhou Rural Development Institute, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) * Corresponding author: Li Zhou, No. 5 Jianguomen Waidajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China ( 100732). Email:


This paper consists of four parts. Part 1 provides a brief review of the changes in China’s pastoral animal husbandry and grasslands since reform and opening up in the 1980s. Part 2 identifies the problems of inappropriate property rights demarcation, misuse of fencing and fragmented grassland management, and proposes suggestions on adjusting the demarcation of property rights, prudent use of grassland fencing and restoring joint management by grassland village communities. Part 3 identifies problems in the grassland ecological compensation system, including a complicated scope of compensation, short duration of compensation and lack of simple and clear objects of supervision, and proposes suggestions on ensuring compensation based on changes in the number of livestock, focusing compensation on professional herders and encouraging participation by diverse stakeholders. Part 4 reveals that China’s grassland monitoring is yet to focus on pasture property right holders, overlooks the determinants of grassland change and fails to bring into play the role of village communities in grassland monitoring, and proposes suggestions on conducting livestock monitoring in pastoral village communities, monitoring the value added of grassland ecosystem services and creating a “three-in-one” grassland monitoring team and disclosure system.

pasture property rights, ecological compensation, grassland monitoring

JEL classification: P48, M12, P28

Keywords: 1. Changes in China’s Pasturelivestock Husbandry and Pasture Resources

China has 400 million hectares of grasslands, which cover 40% of its total land territory. Changing conditions of grasslands exert significant impacts on national ecological security for the following reasons: (1) Grasslands represent the largest landbased ecosystem in China. They range across over 4,500 kilometers from the Tibetan Plateau in the west to the Greater Khingan Range in the north and east. Grasslands serve as an important ecological barrier against desertification. (2) Grasslands are the major water conservation areas for major rivers. The Yangtze River, Yellow River, Lancang River, Nujiang River, Yarlung Zangbo River, Liaohe River and Heilongjiang River all originate from grassland. The water storage capacity of grasslands is correlated with changes in China’s water system. (3) Grasslands are an extremely important carbon sink. Carbon dioxide contained in the humus of grasslands plays a significant role in the carbon cycle. ( 4) Grasslands are precious gene banks. China’s grassland ecosystem contains over 17,000 animal and plant species. With strong resistance

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