Unintended Side Effects of Conservation: A Case Study of Changing Land Use in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China
Toward the goals of returning the landscape of Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve to a perceived “natural” state and protecting the environment, the Reserve in 1998–2002 implemented forest preservation policies that included restrictions on forestry, agriculture, and animal herding practiced by resident Tibetans. To document the effects of these land use changes on landscape diversity and on human vulnerability to natural hazards, we mapped and characterized topographic parameters of anthropogenic treeless areas from 1973, 2004, and 2013 satellite images. Results showed that, in addition to a previously documented overall loss of cleared land, the distribution of treeless area elevation, aspect, and slope has changed. In 1973, treeless areas were distributed approximately uniformly across all elevations and a wide range of slopes, but now they are concentrated on relatively flat slopes in the valley bottoms (∼2400 m) and high, subalpine elevations (∼3800 m). These changes are decreasing the topographic diversity of landscapes people use and likely also decreasing the biodiversity of the Reserve, where plant communities are highly stratified based on both elevation and aspect. In addition, many 1973 treeless areas were located on deep-seated landslides, while many 2004 and 2013 treeless areas were located on landslide deposits and alluvial fans, suggesting that relocation may not be reducing the risk of natural hazards for residents. These effects combine with the previously documented decline in overall area of montane meadows and associated losses to cultural heritage, ecosystem services, and biodiversity.
Schmidt, Amanda H., Yongxian Li, and Ya Tang. 2017. "Unintended Side Effects of Conservation: A Case Study of Changing Land Use in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China." Mountain Research and Development 37(1): 56-65.
International Mountain Society
Mountain Research and Development
Jiuzhaigou National Nature Reserve, Returning farmland to forest, Biodiversity, Sichuan Sheng (China), Tibet, Environmental hazards