Spatially explicit quantification of the interactions among ecosystem services

Li, Y. J. Z. et al., 2017. Landscape Ecology

Original research (primary data)
View External Publication Link


Human demands for ecosystem services (ES) have tremendously changed the landscape and led to degradation of ecosystems and associated services. The resolving of current eco-environmental problems calls for better understanding of the spatially explicit ES interactions to guide targeted land-use policy-making. We propose a framework to map ES in continuous time-series, based on which we further quantify interactions among multiple ES. The supply of three key ES-soil conservation (SC), net primary production (NPP) and water yield (WY)-were quantified and mapped at fine-resolution from 2000 to 2013 using easily-accessible spatial data. Pairwise ES interactions were quantified using a spatio-temporal statistical method. Spatio-temporal analyses of ES dynamics illustrated that the supply of the three ES increased over the past 14 years in northern Shaanxi, where land cover dramatically changed owing to the wide-range ecological restoration projects. Our results also revealed that ES interactions varied across locations due to landscape heterogeneity and climate difference. In the arid and semi-arid area, synergies among ES (e.g., SC vs. WY) tended to dominate in grassland, while in artificial lands ES were prone to show trade-offs. In the semi-humid area, pairwise ES (e.g., NPP vs. WY) in woodland tended to present synergies. The spatio-temporal variation of ES and their interactions resulted from coupling effect of human-induced climate and land-use change. In the long-term, spatially explicit quantification of ES interactions can help identify spatial heterogeneity in ES trade-offs and synergies, and inform regional targeted land-use policy adjustment and sustainable ecosystem management.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-222-1
  • Intervention type: Created habitats
  • Intervention description:

    During the past decades, several ameliorative actions, such as the Three-North Shelter Forest Program (TNSFP) and the Grain-for-Green Program (GFG), have been launched by Chinese government to restore the vegetation and improve ecological environment. Other notes about the intervention (what actually happened on the ground): Besides, we found that in the LP, most LULC transition (from 2000 to 2013) were transferred into grassland (80.24%, see Appendix 2, Fig. A4), instead of woodland (13.44%). This information may also help overturn the claim that reforestation led to WY decrease in the northern LP since there was far less afforestation than expected, thereby supported our result regarding WY

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Soil erosion  Positive Soil conservation determined from the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation calculated from spatial mapping models
    Reduced water availability  Unclear results regional annual Water yield, calculated as WY 1= [PPT - ET +/- soil water storage change] calculated from spatial mapping models
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Shaanxi province lies in 105°290 –110°150 E, 31°420 – 39°350N

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


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: assess change in outcome measures over time across the study area and attribute these changes to the interventions because co-occurring in the area (no actual analysis to link changes in outcome measures to the interventions beyond this) "The increase of SC and NPP in northern Shaanxi was mostly attributed to the large- scale ecological construction projects, such as the Three-North Shelter Forest Program (TNSFP) and the Grain-for-Green Program (GFG). Especially, in the Yan River basin, the most extensive vegetation restoration projects have greatly helped enhance the soil conservation and boosted the increase of NPP (Xie et al. 2009; Su et al. 2012; Wang et al. 2015). " But unclear for water yield "The decrease likely resulted from the vegetation restora- tion projects (e.g., TNSFP, GFG and etc.), which increased the evapotranspiration, and consequently led to water shortage (Jackson et al. 2005), especially in the LP region. ... further analysis is needed since recent growing literatures has been arguing that the variation of WY is not totally decided by the LULC change, but dominated by regional climate change and human activities (such as landscape engineering, terracing and the construction of check dams and reservoirs) " --> therefore although water yield decreased in the area, the authors are unclear about the contribution of the interventions to this change Note however that the Study's focus is to look at synergies/trade-offs among water (water yield), sediment (soil conservation) and carbon sequestration (net primary production) The changes in ES supply for erosion, NPP and WY vary over time and spatially The discussion directly attributes changes in ES provisioning (water yield and erosion and npp) to the interventions, although the main result of this study/novelty is that they show there’s spatial and temporal heterogeneity in ES provisioning. Confounding variables explaining heterogeneity include precipitation. Other land use change (grey infrastructure) could have influenced the results. They also provide an analysis of how synergies/trade-offs vary between land cover type. So synergies in grasslands, whereas in woodland there’s a trade-off, which they say is concerning b/c reforestation initiatives may not consider it.
  • 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?: Yes
  • Impacts on GHG: Positive
  • 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: