Traditional Livelihoods, Conservation and Meadow Ecology in Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan, China

Lauren S. Urgenson
Amanda C. Henck Schmidt, Oberlin College
Julie Combs
Stevan Harrell
Thomas M. Hinckley
Qingxia Yang
Ziyu Ma
Li Yongxian
Lü Hongliang
Andrew MacIver


Jiuzhaigou National Park (JNP) is a site of global conservation significance. Conservation policies in JNP include the implementation of two national reforestation programs to increase forest cover and the exclusion of local land-use. We use archaeological excavation, ethnographic interviews, remote sensing and vegetation surveys to examine the implications of these policies for non-forest, montane meadows. We find that Amdo Tibetan people cultivated the valley for >2,000 years, creating and maintaining meadows through land clearing, burning and grazing. Meadows served as sites for gathering plants and mushrooms and over 40 % of contemporary species are ethnobotanically useful. Remote sensing analyses indicate a substantial (69.6 %) decline in meadow area between 1974 and 2004. Respondents report a loss of their “true history” and connections to the past associated with loss of meadows. Conservation policies intended to preserve biodiversity are unintentionally contributing to the loss of these ecologically and culturally significant meadow habitats.