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Ecological and socioeconomic effects of ecological restoration in China's Three Rivers Source Region

Sheng, Wenping, Zhen, Lin, Xiao, Yu, Hu, Yunfeng
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.650 pp. 2307-2313
altitude, climate, conservation areas, ecological restoration, economic development, ecosystems, grasslands, household income, household surveys, land use change, questionnaires, risk, rural poverty, villages, China
The Three Rivers Source Region, in the central Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, has a sensitive and fragile ecological environment. Adverse changes in climate and human activities have degraded the grassland ecosystems. To mitigate or reverse the degradation, alleviate rural poverty, and stimulate economic development, ecological restoration projects have been implemented. In the present study, our goal was to assess the ecological and socioeconomic effects of these programs based on land-use change, grassland NPP, and household surveys. Household data were collected using structured questionnaires in 11 villages from three counties, with average elevation above 3773 m asl. We found that the grassland degradation had been mitigated, especially after the implementation of ecological restoration programs since 2005 in a regional nature reserve in Qinghai Province. Household income depends strongly on the region's natural resources, so the grassland ecosystems are still at risk of unsustainable use. A household that understood the effects of the ecological restoration programs and had received training to participate in the programs was more willing to participate in future programs. Our findings suggest that for successful restoration, it is essential to help residents of the study area thoroughly understand the ecological restoration programs and learn the restoration techniques before implementation of such programs. This is because the participation of the residents depended strongly on both their income and their satisfaction with the ecological restoration programs.