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Gauging policy-driven large-scale vegetation restoration programmes under a changing environment: Their effectiveness and socio-economic relationships

Li, Ting, Lü, Yihe, Fu, Bojie, Comber, Alexis J., Harris, Paul, Wu, Lianhai
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.607-608 pp. 911-919
decision making, ecological restoration, industry, labor force, monitoring, researchers, socioeconomic factors, structural equation modeling, vegetation cover
Large-scale ecological restoration has been widely accepted globally as an effective strategy for combating environmental crises and to facilitate sustainability. Assessing the effectiveness of ecological restoration is vital for researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers. However, few practical tools are available to perform such tasks, particularly for large-scale restoration programmes in complex socio-ecological systems. By taking a “before and after” design, this paper formulates a composite index (Ej) based on comparing the trends of vegetation cover and vegetation productivity to assess ecological restoration effectiveness. The index reveals the dynamic and spatially heterogenic process of vegetation restoration across different time periods, which can be informative for ecological restoration management at regional scales. Effectiveness together with its relationship to socio-economic factors is explored via structural equation modeling for three time periods. The results indicate that the temporal scale is a crucial factor in representing restoration effectiveness, and that the effects of socio-economic factors can also vary with time providing insight for improving restoration effectiveness. A dual-track strategy, which promotes the development of tertiary industry in absorbing the rural labor force together with improvements in agricultural practices, is proposed as a promising strategy for enhancing restoration effectiveness. In this process, timely and long-term ecological restoration monitoring is advocated, so that the success and sustainability of such programmes is ensured, together with more informative decision making where socio-ecological interactions at differing temporal scales are key concerns.