Chair: Heidi Asbjornsen (University of New Hampshire)
Lulu Zhang (UNU-FLORES)
China has invested in environmental restoration for ecosystem services for decades. Vegetation restoration (notably afforestation) has been implemented with a grain-and-cash compensation in ecologically fragile areas, such as the Loess Plateau region in north-west China. Such large-scale afforestation to combat soil erosion resulted in a satisfactory output – the sediment load of the Yellow River on the Loess Plateau has decreased significantly. In contrast to the improved soil services, the hydrological services, such as streamflow and baseflow of the main tributary of the Yellow River and soil water availability for plants, have decreased. This intensifies water use conflicts (e.g., between upper and lower streams) and threatens food security and regional development due to water shortage.
To improve and balance the water and soil-related ecosystem services, both measures and payment schemes for soil and water services need to be revised. Based on the field observations and statistical and hydrological modelling, our study in the middle reaches of the Yellow River identifies the main driving forces in reducing the hydrological water services and makes projections of impacts on hydrological services under continuation of the current measures.
To reverse this trend, we propose alternative options to increase the water-related services. In addition, the shortcomings of the current eco-payment will be discussed and the necessary elements that need to be included in the design of future payment schemes are raised.
This is UNU-FLORES’s contribution to the Water Future Initiative. The organiser Heidi Asbjornsen is the Chair of the Economic Instruments of Water Security Working Group of the Water Future, in which Dr Kai Schwärzel and Prof. Yanhui Wang are members.
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