Journal of Resources and Ecology ›› 2020, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (2): 150-158.DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2020.02.003

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Effects of Grassland Restoration Approaches in Different Major Function-oriented Zones of the Headwater Region of the Yellow River in China

WEI Yunjie1, 2, ZHEN Lin1, 2, *, DU Bingzhen3   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;
    3. Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen 6700 AA, The Netherlands
  • Received:2019-08-11 Accepted:2020-01-13 Online:2020-03-30 Published:2020-05-30
  • Contact: ZHEN Lin, E-mail: zhenl@igsnrr.ac.cn
  • Supported by:
    The National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0501906, 2016YFC0503700).

Abstract: Given the high alpine grassland coverage and intensive animal grazing activity, the ecosystem and livelihood of the herders are extremely vulnerable in the headwater region of the Yellow River. A series of programs have been implemented by the Chinese government to restore degraded grasslands in this region, and major function-oriented zones (MFOZs) applied in 2014, have divided the region into three zones, i.e., the development prioritized, restricted, and prohibited zones, based on environmental carrying capacity, as well as the utilization intensity of grassland. This study identified various restoration approaches adopted in different MFOZs, and assessed the effects of the approaches in order to determine the most effective approaches. We collected 195 questionnaires from herders to analyze the effects of the various restoration approaches, and additional remote sensing and statistical data were also used for the analysis. Four distinct differences in the ecological and socioeconomic characteristics were found in three MFOZs. (1) Five technologies were applied in the study areas. (2) The grassland recovery rate was higher in development prioritized zones than in restricted and prohibited zones during 2000 and 2016, and especially high and very high coverage grasslands increased in the areas where crop-forage cultivation and grass seeding dominated in the prioritized zones. (3) The net income of households in the development prioritized zone was the best of all three zones. (4) The degree of awareness and willingness of herders to restore grassland was more positive in development prioritized zones than in restricted zones, where more herders adopted approaches with a combination of enclosure + deratization + crop-forage cultivation + warm shed. Based on these findings, it is recommended that decision-makers need to increase their efforts to narrow the gap of willingness and behavior between herders and other stakeholders, such as researchers and grassland administrators, in order to ensure grassland sustainability in the MFOZs. It is also beneficial to understand the effects of restoration on the ecological carrying capacities in different zones depending on the different development goals.

Key words: major function-oriented zones (MFOZs), ecological restoration approaches, effect evaluation, stakeholders, headwater region of the Yellow River