Impacts of changes in climate and landscape pattern on ecosystem services

Hao, R. F. Y. et al., 2017. Science of the Total Environment

Original research (primary data)
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The restoration of degraded vegetation can effectively improve ecosystem services, increase human well-being, and promote regional sustainable development. Understanding the changing trends in ecosystem services and their drivers is an important step in informing derision makers for the development of reasonable landscape management measures. From 2001 to 2014, we analyzed the changing trends in five critical ecosystem services in the Xilingol Grassland, which is typical of grasslands in North China, including net primary productivity (NPP), soil conservation (SC), soil loss due to wind (SL), water yield (WY) and water retention (WR). Additionally, we quantified how climatic factors and landscape patterns affect the five ecosystem services on both annual and seasonal time scales. Overall, the results indicated that vegetation restoration can effectively improve the five grassland ecosystem services, and precipitation (PPT) is the most critical climatic factor. The impact of changes in the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was most readily detectable on the annual time scale, whereas the impact of changes in landscape pattern was most readily detectable on the seasonal time scale. A win-win situation in terms of grassland ecosystem services (e.g., vegetation productivity, SC, WR and reduced SL) can be achieved by increasing grassland aggregation, partitioning the largest grasslands, dividing larger areas of farmland into smaller patches, and increasing the area of appropriate forest stands. Our work may aid policymakers in developing regional landscape management schemes.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-207-1
  • Intervention type: Mixed created/non-created habitats
  • Intervention description:

    the Grain for Green Project. This project advocates the cessation of farming on cul- tivated land that is experiencing serious soil erosion and desertification and encourages the planting of trees and grass in accordance with local conditions. Grassland is characterized by serious degradation and desertification with the proportion of desertified grassland within the available pasture area expanded from 48.6% in 1984 to 64% in 1996. In 2005, to improve the ecological environment of the Xilingol Grassland and control desertification, the government of China invested 280 million Yuan in a sand control project. Since the implementation of this sand control project and the Grain for Green Project in 1999, desertification has been suppressed, and the grassland area increased from 176,200 km2 to 177,100 km2 by 2009 Study frames increases in grassland as ecological restoration and clearly the area contains natural grasslands that have been degraded. Although specifics of how they restored the grassland are not given (e.g. if they used native species) code as restoration. But also tree planting and changes to forest cover are indicated as part of intervention with no reference to forest restoration therefore created

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Biomass cover loss  Unclear results annual and seasonal NDVI
    Reduced water availability  Positive Water yield and water retention (mm) both calculated using InVEST - including total annual and seasonal provision of these measures
    Soil erosion  Positive Soil conservation (ton/ha) calculated from universal soil loss equation Soil loss due to wind (kg/m2) calculated from Revised Wind Erosion Equation including total annual and seasonal provision of these measures
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Xilingol is in the center (42°32′–46°41′N and 111°59′–120°E) of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in North China and covers a total area of 200,000 km2 (Fig. 1). the Xilingol Grassland, which is typical of grasslands in North China

  • Country: China
  • Habitat/Biome type: Created forest | Created grassland |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: maps changes in ecosystem services over time, then performs regression analysis to determine the factors responsible for driving these changes in ES including climatic variables and landscape composition (i.e. changes in forest, grassland, or cropland), and landscape configuration (e.g. patch size, shape). The result interpretation is primarily focused in explaining the relationship between drivers of ES and ES, and their complex interactions. It shows that the provisioning of ES and the nature of the interactions varies over temporal and spatial scales, as well as landscape configuration and composition. The provisioning of these ES is associated with the vegetation restoration measures and strongly influenced by climatic drivers, which can be the prime force underlying these processes. Overall, the results indicated that vegetation restoration can effectively improve the five grassland ecosystem services, and precipitation (PPT) is the most critical climatic factor. The five ecosystem services of NPP, SC, SL, WY, and WR have been improved to varying degrees under climate change, indicating that the restoration measures in the Xilingol Grassland have been effective, especially the restoration of sand vegetation. In the discussion overall, they also specifically conclude that grassland restoration can effectively protect the soil from being windblown “Because the demand for water for grassland growth is lower than that for forest and farmland, the increase in grassland area significantly promotes increased NPP in the spring. In grassland restoration, increasing the percent area of grassland can effectively protect the soil from being windblown.” unclear for biomass cover loss because do not make any conclusions
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures:
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: No
  • Impacts for people: Not reported
  • People measures:
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: