CURRENT BIOLOGY - Hidden loss of wetlands in China


September 23, 2019 - Author: Weihua Xu, Xinyue Fan, Jungai Ma, Stuart L. Pimm, Lingqiao Kong, Yuan Zeng, Xiaosong Li, Yi Xiao, Hua Zheng, , Bingfang Wu, Li An, Lu Zhang, Xiaoke Wang, and Zhiyun Ouyang

Current Biology

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.053

To counter their widespread loss, global aspirations are for no net loss of remaining wetlands [1]. We examine whether this goal alone is sufficient for managing China’s wetlands, for they constitute 10% of the world’s total. Analyzing wetland changes between 2000 and 2015 using 30-m-resolution satellite images, we show that China’s wetlands expanded by 27,614 km2 but lost 26,066 km2—a net increase of 1,548 km2 (or 0.4%). This net change hides considerable complexities in the types of wetlands created and destroyed. The area of open water sur- face increased by 9,110 km2, but natural wetlands— henceforth ‘‘marshes’’—decreased by 7,562 km2. Of the expanded wetlands, restoration policies contrib- uted 24.5% and dam construction contributed 20.8%. Climate change accounted for 23.6% but is likely to involve a transient increase due to melting glaciers. Of the lost wetlands, agricultural and urban expansion contributed 47.7% and 13.8%, respec- tively. The increase in wetlands from conservation ef- forts (6,765 km2) did not offset human-caused wetland losses (16,032 km2). The wetland changes may harm wildlife. The wetland loss in east China threatens bird migration across eastern Asia [2]. Open water from dam construction flooded the orig- inal habitats of threatened terrestrial species and affected aquatic species by fragmenting wetland habitats [3]. Thus, the ‘‘no net loss’’ target measures total changes without considering changes in compo- sition and the corresponding ecological functions. It may result in ‘‘paper offsets’’ and should be used carefully as a target for wetland conservation.


Tags: center for systems integration and sustainability, department of fisheries and wildlife



Jianguo "Jack" Liu

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