The Driving Forces and Environmental Consequences of Land-Use and Land-Cover Changes in the Upper Yangtze Basin of China: A Multi-Scale, Integrative Approach

Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (9/01/2005 – 2/28/2008)
Collaborators: Dr. Jiaguo Qi, MSU Center for Global Change and Earth Observations
Dr. David Rothstein, MSU Department of Forestry

Induced by high population density, rapid economic growth, and historical resource exploitation, the land uses and covers in China ’s upper Yangtze basin have witnessed tremendous changes, which have resulted in worsening soil erosion, elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and severe damage to the rich web of life. This project will conduct a pilot study of the regional land-use and land-cover changes (LUCC). Its objectives are to: (1) measure the LUCC attributes and dynamics; (2) explore sampling and modeling strategies to determine the driving forces; and (3) develop and validate datasets and approaches for assessing the environmental impacts. To accomplish these objectives, the project will: (1) integrate the natural and human processes at multiple scales; (2) build spatial, physical and socioeconomic datasets from various sources; (3) identify ways for obtaining additional socioeconomic and ecological data and verifying the data quality through surveying and ground truthing; and (4) search for appropriate procedures to incorporate the technological and institutional changes as well as system feedbacks into the LUCC models.

The project is expected to enable the advancement of the basic knowledge of the driving forces and environmental impacts of the regional LUCC and the development of more effective models as well as future plans for similar but larger integrated research and educational endeavors. Knowledge of the regional LUCC will guide China in designing and implementing policies and technical actions that promote sustainable land use and environmental protection. It will also aid China in fulfilling its commitments to restoring its ecosystems. Further, China ’s lessons and experience can benefit both many countries facing similar environmental challenges. Moreover, LUCC in China is relevant to global initiatives, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention on Desertification Combating.

An Integrative Impact Evaluation of China’s Ecological Restoration Programs

Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (10/01/2006 – 3/31/2010)
Collaborators: Dr. Jiaguo Qi, MSU Center for Global Change and Earth Observations
Dr. David Rothstein, MSU Department of Forestry

Deforestation, desertification, and cropland degradation in China caused serious floods, droughts, sand storms, and habitat losses. In response, the Chinese government has, among other things, initiated the Natural Forest Protection Program and the Sloping Land Conversion Program to restore its forest, range and farm ecosystems. The goal of this project is to gain a clear understanding of and thus an enhanced ability to execute these unprecedented programs of ecological restoration. To that end, this project will evaluate their environmental and socioeconomic impacts over the next three years. Included in the environmental impacts are erosion/desertification control, biodiversity protection, and carbon storage; and covered in the socioeconomic impacts are livelihood change, targeting efficiency, and cost effectiveness. To achieve these objectives, this project will: (1) strengthen an existing multidisciplinary team with expertise in landscape ecology, social science, remote sensing, and climate change; (2) develop effective treatment effect models with comprehensive datasets; (3) integrate assessments at household, community and regional scales; and (4) collaborate with leading Chinese scholars.

Addressing the major issues of China’s ecological restoration programs is of great interest and broad significance to the international community. This project will advance the scientific knowledge of their potential impacts as well as the appropriate approaches to evaluating them. It will also provide the needed policy support and thus an enhanced ability for China to carry out the two programs more efficiently and effectively, which will contribute not only to its domestic environmental improvement, poverty reduction and adaptation strategy, but also to the fulfillment of such global initiatives as the Kyoto Protocol, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Convention on Desertification Combating. Moreover, the research experience and findings will benefit the pursuit of similar interdisciplinary research undertakings by scholars in China and elsewhere. Finally, it will engage communities and stakeholders in policy deliberation, U.S. graduate and undergraduate students in primary research and experiential learning, and Chinese academic institutions in capacity building.

China’s Forest Sector: Market Projection and Policy Analysis

Funded by the USDA Forest Service (9/01/2005 – 8/30/2008)
Collaborators: Dr. David Wear, USDA Forest Service
Dr. Zhou Li, Chinese Academy of Social Science

The goal of this project is to conduct a systematic study of China’s forest products markets. The two objectives are to: (1) develop alternative models for projecting China’s demand, supply, and imports of wood products in light of its economic growth and structural adjustments; and (2) assess the impacts of China’s forest policy changes on its timber production, consumption, and trade as well as the associated environmental conditions. To achieve these objectives, a structural econometric model will be developed based on data from multiple sources. It is expected that by building and using these models creatively, the proposed research will contribute to a greatly improved understanding of the Chinese forest economy.

China’s timber shortages have been intensified by the government decision to reduce harvests from its natural forests to mitigate soil erosion, flooding, and other ecological disasters. The country is increasingly turning to the outside to fill its supply gaps, and its recent accession to the WTO has given this trend further momentum. However, the rapid growth of wood products importing and re-exporting can have an uncertain, but significant, impact on world’s forests. Moreover, it pertains to the competitiveness and sustainability of the U.S. forest products industry, and has far-reaching implications to U.S. manufacturing workers and timberland owners. It is thus necessary and timely for the U.S. government to investigate China’s forest products markets. By doing so, this project will facilitate the exploration of trade and investment opportunities by the U.S. forest products industry and other stakeholders in China. Likewise, it will benefit China in better managing its forest resources and developing its forest products industry. Also, it will help the international community gauge the long-term prospects of China’s timber imports and their potential environmental impacts at the regional and global levels.