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Ecological and economic dynamics of the Shunde agricultural system under China's small city development strategy
- Lu, Hongfang, Campbell, Daniel E.
- Journal of environmental management 2009 v.90 no.8 pp. 2589-2600
- cities, urbanization, agriculture, industrialization, ecosystem services, economic analysis, China
- The agricultural and industrial development of small cities is the primary environmental management strategy employed to make full use of extra labor in the rural areas of China. The ecological and economic consequences of this development strategy will affect over 100 million people and change the organization of the Chinese landscape. In this study, we examined the agricultural development of Shunde, a small city in Guangdong Province, over the period 1978 until 2000. Our analysis of the ecological and economic dynamics of the agricultural system revealed the dominant role of labor in the intensification of agricultural production, even though the use of fuels, fertilizers and machines also increased during this time. The Shunde agricultural system was examined from both biophysical or donor-based and human utility or receiver-based perspectives, using emergy and economic methods, respectively. After 22 years of urbanization, the Shunde agricultural system was still able to fill 96% of the local demand for agricultural products using only 6% of its total yield compared to using 14% of the total yield in 1978. Aquaculture developed quickly during the study period as grain production decreased. In 2000, the production of fish, pork, and vegetables accounted for 92% of the total emergy output of the system; however, the emergy buying power of the money received in exchange was lower than the emergy contained in the products exported. The excess emergy exported is the basis for a high quality diet delivered to city dwellers at a relatively low price. In the 1980s, the productivity of both land and labor increased; but after 1992 the productivity of labor decreased, causing the efficiency of the whole agricultural system to decrease. We recommend that processing plants be established for the main agricultural products of Shunde to decrease the emergy loss in trading and to increase employment. The effect of including monetized ecosystem services in the balance between the emergy delivered to the markets in agricultural products and the emergy buying power of the money received was to decrease the emergy gained by the Shunde agricultural system.