This month Science published the results of China’s first national ecosystem assessment, showing how the country’s massive investments are paying off in ways that will make people safer, by reducing the risk of natural disasters, improving water quality, and mitigating climate change.
China began investing billions to restore ecosystems, paying farming families to replant trees on steep slopes and other vulnerable areas, after a series of floods and landslides in the 1990s killed thousands of people.
“China has gone further than any other country,” said Gretchen Daily in a Stanford News Service story featuring the research. “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.”
The study is the result of a long collaboration between The Natural Capital Project co-founders Daily and Steve Polasky, working with Chinese researcher Zhiyun Ouyang, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Jianguo Liu of Michigan State University, among many other researchers. Over 3000 Chinese scientists contributed to the assessment, which relies partly on The Natural Capital Project’s InVEST software to track various ecosystem services and target investments across the country.
“Such investments can have big payoffs,” said Steve Polasky, of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. “Restoring forests and grasslands can reduce flooding and sandstorms, which has large benefits for the people downstream and downwind.”
The researchers see China’s efforts as a model for other countries looking to secure natural capital, and it even caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal. Daily told the Journal that interest in natural capital information is on the rise. “The whole world is waking up to the need to invest in natural capital as the basis for green growth.”
Improvements in ecosystem services from investments in natural capital
Zhiyun Ouyang, Hua Zheng, Yi Xiao, Stephen Polasky, Jianguo Liu, Weihua Xu, Qiao Wang, Lu Zhang, Yang Xiao, Enming Rao, Ling Jiang, Fei Lu, Xiaoke Wang, Guangbin Yang, Shihan Gong, Bingfang Wu, Yuan Zeng, Wu Yang and Gretchen C. Daily
Science 352: 1455-1459. June 17, 2016. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2295
Stacey Solie is the Communications Lead at The Natural Capital Project.