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China's environmental policies making positive impact: science report

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-06-17 03:36
SAN FRANCISCO -- A new paper, involving an international team of 3,000 researchers, reveals that China's environmental policies are making clear positive impacts.

"China has gone further than any other country," said Gretchen Daily, professor of Environmental Science at Stanford and senior author of the paper. "In the face of deepening environmental crisis, China has become very ambitious and innovative in its new conservation science and policies and has implemented them on a breathtaking scale."

The paper, titled "Improvements in ecosystem services from investments in natural capital," is published in the June 17 issue of journal Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The research team used InVEST, a software suite designed by the Natural Capital Project for evaluating economic and environmental tradeoffs, to assess China's conservation efforts from 2000-2010 by analyzing data from satellites, soil samples, biodiversity surveys, meteorology, hydrological studies and other types of field surveys.

It leads to discovery that the country's conservation policies improved key ecosystem services such as soil retention, water supply, carbon sequestration and sand storm prevention on a country-wide scale.

"The hope is that this can bring about a transformation in the way people think of and account for the values of nature," said Daily, who is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and co-director of the Natural Capital Project.

Officials in China began considering significant environmental reform following a series of natural disasters in the late 1990s that were exacerbated by human activities, the researchers noted.

By 2000, China developed the Natural Forest Conservation Program and the Sloping Land Conversion Program, which costed 50 billion U.S. dollars over 10 years and was designed to reduce natural disaster risks by restoring forest and grassland, while also improving life conditions for 120 million poverty-stricken farmers.

Such investments can have big payoffs, said Steve Polasky, Fesler-Lampert Professor of Ecological/Environmental Economics at University of Minnesota and a co-author of the report. "Restoring forests and grasslands can reduce flooding and sandstorms, which has large benefits for the people downstream and downwind."

Much of China's success can be traced to how officials incorporate assessments of the state of ecosystems and their economic values to society into decision-making processes.

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