China's Environment Will Be Protected by Identifying Areas of 'High Ecological Importance'
Feb 07, 2017 12:27 PM EST
As China remains the top country in emitting greenhouse gases, its largest cities are still blanketed in smog and its growing population of 1.4 billion people is deemed as a major contributor to such pollution. While China’s environmental state cannot be associated with a high level of mindfulness and caution, a new published study seeks to change such circumstances.
Stanford University biology professor Gretchen Daily conducted a study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that utilized eco-mapping software. This sought to determine areas “of high ecological importance” and aid in the decision-making to restore China's environment.
The country’s leaders are applying Daily’s analytics to identify protected areas and contribute to its ecological initiative. "It's a historic moment in the evolution of Chinese civilization. It's marked by a recognition that the singular focus on mainstream economic growth over the last century has come at a tremendous cost," Daily explained.
Using a software developed by researchers from the Natural Capital Project, several elements for ecological importance were identified, including availability of water and flood control, among others that support human life. Using such approach to explore China’s environmental state does not push towards a goal of “putting a price tag on nature.” Rather, the researchers aimed to offer guidance in terms of land use, water supply investments, and urban planning, to name a few.
“We need to shine a light on the many ways in which prosperity and well-being depend on nature, systematically and for setting priorities,” Daily explained.
According to Science Daily, the research team identified priority areas that are bringing on small yet positive effects to China’s environment. These include the Yangtze River’s lower streams, Nanling, the Min-Zhe-Gan and Wuyi mountains, as well as the west and south Yunnan within the southern region. Such locations were not included in China’s previous list of existing nature preserves. These areas also account for only 10 to 13 percent of China’s ecologically valuable sites.
As an attempt to preserve China’s environment, its leaders are investing in conservation projects, including the national park system that will be formally proposed this summer. Over the past decade, China’s nature conservation attempts have been worth over $100 billion. The country is currently paying approximately 200 million individuals to help protect or repair ecosystems for China’s eco-compensation program, also deemed the world’s largest eco-payment system.
"China is going further than any other place in so many ways. They are really trying to harmonize local well-being with long-term societal security and prosperity," Daily said.