Loss of Natural Capital due to Expansion of Cropland in China

September 25, 2023 | Nature Ecology & Evolution

 Introduction: Globally, the increasing demand for food has led to widespread loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences utilized data spanning 2000 to 2015 from national ecosystem assessments in China, mapping the loss of four crucial ecosystem services (water retention, soil retention, sandstorm prevention, and carbon sequestration), along with potential wildlife habitat due to cropland expansion. 

Key findings: The study reveals that, China as the global main grain producer, at the national level from 2000 to 2015, land reclamation for cropland has undermined gains in wildlife habitat and the ecosystem services of water retention, sandstorm prevention, carbon sequestration, and soil retention by 113.8%, 63.4%, 52.5%, 29.0%, and 10.2%, respectively.

Conclusion:  This underscores the need to invest in restoration of natural capital to achieve global sustainability goals. Balancing the demands of agriculture with the preservation of ecosystems is essential to ensure a more sustainable future.

 Read more: Natural capital investments in China undermined by reclamation for cropland


Fig. | Vital ecosystems converted to cropland across China, 2000–2015.