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Impacts of land consolidation on rural human–environment system in typical watershed of the Loess Plateau and implications for rural development policy

Yurui, Li, Yi, Li, Pengcan, Fan, Hualou, Long
Land use policy 2019 v.86 pp. 339-350
agricultural mechanization, anthropogenic activities, case studies, citizen participation, cohesion, collective action, development policy, ecological function, ecosystems, employment, flood control, forest land, forests, governance, grasslands, household surveys, land use, landscapes, leadership, models, planning, remote sensing, rural development, shrublands, soil erosion, terraces, vegetation cover, watersheds, China
Exploring the impact of land consolidation on the evolution of rural human-environment system (HES) is of positive significance for optimizing land consolidation model and innovating rural development policy. Taken a typical small watershed in Yan'an city as case study area, this paper explored the impact of gully land consolidation (GLC) on local HES from the perspectives of land use, landscape pattern, ecological security, social-economic response and comprehensive evaluation, based on high-resolution remote sensing image data, landscape pattern analysis and household surveys. The results showed that: (1) GLC could contribute to the improvement of land use structure. The terraces, sloping fields, shrub land and grassland at the bottom and both sides of the gully were mostly converted to high quality check dam land. Some of the shrub land were converted to more ecologically suitable native forest due to biological measures. (2) GLC could also help to optimize the landscape pattern. The average patch area and patch cohesion index of the check dam land increased, which indicated that the function of production improved. The landscape shape index and patch cohesion index of forestland and shrub land kept at a high level, and thus their ecological function was stable. At the watershed level, the fragmentation degree of landscape decreased, the landscape tended to be more diversified and balanced, and the anti-jamming capability of landscape and stability of ecosystem improved. (3) GLC have positive effects on the ecological security. Vegetation cover, ecological environment and capacity of flood control improved significantly, and soil erosion decreased by 55%. And (4) human activities responded to the changes of geographical environment. The scale of agricultural production, agricultural mechanization, diversity and non-agriculturalization of employment increased. However, the structure of agriculture is still unitary, the efficiency of agriculture is still low, and rural development is still relatively lagging. Field investigations showed that insufficient public participation, and lack of leadership and overall planning for sustainable utilization of resources and environment are the main reasons. A ladder model has been proposed for better understanding the impacts of land consolidation on territorial human-environment system in rural China. This paper suggests that land consolidation should be seen and evaluated in a broader rural development context, and more efforts should be made to innovate the rural governance mechanism of “common consultation and collective action”, thereby exerting the comprehensive effectiveness of land consolidation and promoting the transformation development and revitalization of territorial rural HES.