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Quantifying the spatio-temporal drivers of planned vegetation restoration on ecosystem services at a regional scale

Liu, Yuanxin, Lü, Yihe, Fu, Bojie, Harris, Paul, Wu, Lianhai
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.650 pp. 1029-1040
decision making, ecological restoration, ecosystem management, ecosystem services, models, population density, vegetation cover, yearbooks, China
Vegetation restoration often has a significant effect on the supply of an ecosystem service (ES). Assessment of this effect is crucial for informed decision-making in sustainable ecosystem management. In this respect, this study analyses three regulating, two provisioning, and a single cultural ES over a 30-year period (1985 to 2015, with 15 years pre-restoration and 15 years post-restoration) in the Loess Plateau, China, using data from a combination of modelling and statistical yearbooks. On applying a suite of standard statistical tools, results indicate: (1) regional scale restoration promotes the increase of vegetation cover as the coverage increased faster between 2000 and 2015 than between 1985 and 2000; (2) vegetation restoration changes the temporal trend of regulating ESs, and enhances the supply of provisioning and cultural ESs; (3) the 40 municipalities of the Loess Plateau can be divided into four ES categories where areas with poor ES delivery account for about 30% of the Loess Plateau; (4) vegetation restoration changes the interaction among ESs, resulting in synergistic relationships between provisioning and regulating ESs; (5) precipitation has a significant impact on regulating ESs, while population density is critical for provisioning and cultural ESs. This study demonstrates that ESs, their interactions and their groupings can change across both time and space following the implementation of a vegetation restoration programme, which makes understanding ES dynamics complicated. Recommendations are provided for improved and coherent ecosystem management.