Feedback of telecoupling: the case of a payments for ecosystem services program


Hongbo Yang, Frank Lupi, Jindong Zhang, Xiaodong Chen and Jianguo Liu

Journal or Book Title: Ecology and Society

Keywords: conservation; ecosystem services; feedback; giant panda; telecoupling; Wolong

Volume/Issue: 23(2): 45

Year Published: 2018


Around the globe, previously isolated rural areas are increasingly connected with other distant places (e.g., cities) by telecouplings (i.e., environmental and socioeconomic interactions over distances) such as payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs, labor migration, and tourism. Although many studies have estimated impacts of telecouplings in rural areas, little is known about how these impacts might in turn affect telecouplings themselves through feedbacks. Using household survey data collected in China’s Wolong Nature Reserve for giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), we evaluated an unexpected impact of the telecoupling of the Grain to Green Program (GTGP)—one of the largest PES programs in the world. This impact may trigger a feedback that can strengthen the GTGP in the future. A previous study in Wolong found that afforestation on marginal cropland promoted by the GTGP has significantly intensified crop damage by wildlife on nearby remaining cropland. We evaluated how this change might in turn affect the GTGP by estimating the impact of crop damage induced by the current GTGP on local households’ willingness to participate in possible future GTGP. Our results show that due to the impact of the current GTGP on crop damage, local households may enroll 10.4% more cropland that is close to the afforested lands in future GTGP, which suggests a positive feedback that will strengthen the influences of the GTGP in Wolong and beyond. Our study highlights that local human–nature interactions driven by telecouplings, such as human–wildlife conflicts, may trigger feedbacks that affect telecouplings themselves. With improved understanding of telecouplings’ feedbacks, scientists, policy-makers, and conservation practitioners can better anticipate the complex interactions among different places and design effective conservation strategies for achieving sustainability objectives such as those set by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

DOI: 10.5751/ES-10140-230245

Type of Publication: Journal Article