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Chen Z.-Q.,Fujian Normal University | Chen Z.-B.,Fujian Normal University | Chen H.-B.,Fujian Normal University | Yue H.,Soil and Water Conservation Bureau of Changting County
Journal of Mountain Science

Declining soil fertility has become an increasingly urgent problem and gathering firewood is one of the important contributing factors. Due to the excessive exploitation of natural resources especially for firewood, the red soil hilly region has become one of the most vulnerable eco-environment regions in China. The pressure of gathering firewood on forestland soil fertility in forestland has been generally estimated by geographical information system and questionnaire method in this paper in the Zhuxi watershed of Changting County, Fujian Province, China, a typical representative in the red soil hilly region of China. The results of this study show that: i) Forestland soil fertility is negatively affected by gathering firewood, which is more intensive in the integrated buffer zone than out of zone. The forestland soil fertility grade, OM, total N, available N, total P, available P, total K, available K, pH and <2 μm clay content are lower and bulk density is higher in the integrated buffer zone than those out. ii) The forestland soil fertility grade, OM, total N, available N, total P, available P, total K, available K, pH and <2 μm clay content tend to be lower and bulk density tends to be higher in the village buffer zones than those out in Datian, Chenguang and Youfang respectively. iii) The population density, economic development and terrain might be the key driving forces contributing to the relationship between gathering firewood and forestland soil fertility. Higher population density leads to more massive firewood collection and imposes more pressure on forestland soil fertility. Decreasing the use of firewood stove may reduce firewood consumption and thus release the pressure of gathering firewood on forestland soil fertility. Terrain affects the accessibility to gathering firewood thus affects forestland soil fertility. Other driving forces influencing the relationship between gathering firewood and forestland soil fertility should also be taken into account in the further study. © 2013 Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Source

Zhong B.,Soil and Water Conservation Bureau of Changting County | Peng S.,Soil and Water Conservation Bureau of Changting County | Zhang Q.,Renmin University of China | Ma H.,Beijing Forestry University | Cao S.,Northwest University, China
Land Use Policy

Land degradation and poverty are problems that must be tackled together for environmental conservation to succeed. However, it is rarely possible to move a population from degraded land to another area where the people can be more easily sustained. To find a new strategy that achieves both conservation and economic gains without the need to relocate a population, we examined/investigated a sustainable combination of ecological and economic development suitable for the restoration of areas of China with collapsing gullies, where the frequent steep slopes make restoration difficult. The results showed that the degraded land may contain significant benefits that were previously unappreciated, thereby transforming a problem into an opportunity. Our results suggest that the new approach can both improve the livelihoods of local citizens and promote environmental conservation, leading to successful ecological restoration. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Ma H.,Guangxi Institute of Water Resources Research | Zhong B.L.,Soil and Water Conservation Bureau of Changting County | Yue H.,Soil and Water Conservation Bureau of Changting County | Cao S.X.,Beijing Forestry University
Shengtai Xuebao/ Acta Ecologica Sinica

Natural restoration is mainly accomplished by allowing natural reforestation to occur, combined with prohibiting agriculture and grazing to reduce human disturbance of the environment. Taking advantage of the succession that occurs in natural ecosystems is a common ecological restoration measure that can restore ecosystems and keep them in balance. However, conservation and restoration biologists have increasingly recognized that ecological communities are likely to exhibit threshold changes in structure that may prevent succession from occurring. Because long-term monitoring data are generally lacking, little is known about the consequences of such ecological thresholds for the processes of ecosystem degradation and recovery. To identify whether a degradation threshold exists that defines the boundary between the possibility of natural recovery and the need for artificial restoration of an ecosystem and to use this knowledge to support the development of a suitable strategy for environmental restoration, we have performed long-term monitoring of vegetation recovery in China’s Changting County since 1986. We found a severe problem in this area, which we refer to as the “irreversible loss of soil services”: when vegetation cover decreases below an ecological degradation threshold, leading to sustained degeneration of the vegetation community, erosion of the surface soil and declining soil fertility occur. These changes represent a severe and long-term disturbance of the vegetation, the soil, and the landscape. We identified a degradation threshold at about 20% vegetation cover, which suggests that for some sites with a vegetation cover of between 20 and 30%, vegetation cover can serve as a simple proxy for more sophisticated approaches to identifying thresholds; when vegetation cover declines to this level, restoration must start with the restoration of soil fertility and continue by facilitating vegetation development. Our results support the concept of ecological thresholds (specifically, for soil services in a warm and wet region of China) and provide a model to inform restoration strategies for other degraded ecosystems. Ecosystem restoration sometimes fails because ecological interactions are more complex or human intervention is more difficult than anticipated; factors other than human disturbance, such as climate variability (e.g., a drought shortly after planting), can result in failure of a strategy that would succeed under better conditions. Some degraded ecosystems can be sustained only through ongoing management, but many conservation efforts preclude such interventions. Although ecologists can recognize many of the species changes that are likely to precipitate threshold changes in community composition, biotic interactions can be unexpected, and because responses often depend strongly on local conditions, they cannot be broadly generalized. For example, complex ecosystems with multiple interacting species may have multiple thresholds based on different components of the ecosystem. Desertification is another example and has been shown to result from strong biogeomorphic feedbacks that operate across several spatial scales. When overgrazing of arid grasslands reduces vegetation cover, water infiltration decreases, further limiting plant growth and leading to persistent desertification. Such spatial discontinuities, called ecotones, can be detected using multivariate data ordered in one dimension through comparisons of measures of dissimilarity computed between the systems on either side of the discontinuity. The “irreversible loss of soil services” described in our study, whether at national, regional, or local scales will have a variety of thresholds, and it will be necessary to calibrate this index for different regions before it becomes a useful management tool. However, as our results show, it is possible to identify useful proxies for such thresholds and use them to guide subsequent management of degrading sites. © 2015 Ecological Society of China. All rights reserved. Source

Ma H.,Beijing Forestry University | Wang Y.,Beijing Forestry University | Yue H.,Soil and Water Conservation Bureau of Changting County | Zhong B.,Soil and Water Conservation Bureau of Changting County
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

Whether to use artificial restoration or to allow natural recovery of degraded land has been an important topic in restoration ecology because of the need to determine the most appropriate way to restore degraded lands that have suffered from serious soil erosion. To identify the threshold between a need for artificial restoration and the possibility of natural recovery, we analyzed the vegetation cover, soil fertility parameters, erosion modulus, and runoff coefficient in 32 plots with different vegetation covers in China's Fujian province from 1999 to 2009. In our study, 20 % vegetation cover appeared to be the threshold between natural recovery and artificial restoration. When vegetation cover dropped below 20 %, it was difficult to stabilize the original ecological structure and functions based on natural recovery mechanisms, and artificial restoration was needed. By monitoring sites to detect when vegetation cover is approaching this threshold, local managers could determine whether natural or assisted recovery represents the most appropriate strategy for ecological restoration. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Source

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