Effects of conservation policies on forest cover change in giant panda habitat regions, China


Yu (Chris) Li, Andrés Viña, Wu Yang, Xiaodong Chen, Jindong Zhang, Zhiyun Ouyang, Zai Liang, Jianguo Liu

Journal or Book Title: Land Use Policy

Keywords: Conservation policy; Forest cover change; Forest transition; Forest dynamics; Panda habitat region; China

Volume/Issue: Vol. 33

Page Number(s): 42-53

Year Published: 2013


After long periods of deforestation, forest transition has occurred globally, but the causes of forest transition in different countries are highly variable. Conservation policies may play important roles in facilitating forest transition around the world, including China. To restore forests and protect the remaining natural forests, the Chinese government initiated two nationwide conservation policies in the late 1990s – the Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP) and the Grain-To-Green Program (GTGP). While some studies have discussed the environmental and socioeconomic effects of each of these policies independently and others have attributed forest recovery to both policies without rigorous and quantitative analysis, it is necessary to quantify the outcomes of these two conservation policies simultaneously because the two policies have been implemented at the same time. To fill this knowledge gap, this study quantitatively evaluated the effects of the two conservation policies on forest cover change between 2001 and 2008 in 108 townships located in two important giant panda habitat regions – the Qinling Mountains region in Shaanxi Province and the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary in Sichuan Province. Annual forest cover change rate was evaluated using a land-cover product (MCD12Q1) derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). This product proved to be highly accurate in the study region (overall accuracy was ca. 87%, using 425 ground truth points collected in the field), thus suitable for the forest change analysis performed. Results showed that within the timeframe evaluated, 94% of townships (i.e., 101 out of 108) in both regions exhibited either increases or no changes in forest cover. After accounting for a variety of socioeconomic and biophysical attributes, a linear regression model suggests that the GTGP had a positive and significant effect on the annual forest cover change rate after seven years of implementation. Our results also suggest that elevation has a significant positive effect on forest cover change, while the percentage of agricultural population, initial forest cover in 2001, and the interaction term of elevation and slope had negative significant effects. Findings from this study will be useful for evaluating the implementation of current conservation policies, designing future conservation policies, developing future giant panda habitat conservation projects, and achieving forest sustainability in China and elsewhere.

DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.12.003

Type of Publication: Journal Article

Publisher: Elsevier