China’s Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program: A systematic review of the socioeconomic and environmental effects

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Gutiérrez Rodríguez , L , Hogarth , N J , Zhou , W , Putzel , L , Xie , C & Zhang , K 2016 , ' China’s Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program: A systematic review of the socioeconomic and environmental effects ' , Environmental Evidence , vol. 5 , 21 .

Title: China’s Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program: A systematic review of the socioeconomic and environmental effects
Author: Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Lucas; Hogarth, Nicholas J.; Zhou, Wen; Putzel, Louis; Xie, Chen; Zhang, Kun
Contributor organization: Forest Ecology and Management
Department of Forest Sciences
Viikki Tropical Resources Institute (VITRI)
Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry
Date: 2016-09-12
Language: eng
Number of pages: 22
Belongs to series: Environmental Evidence
ISSN: 2047-2382
Abstract: Background Farming on sloping lands has historically led to forest loss and degradation in China which, coupled with timber extraction activities, was deemed responsible for catastrophic flooding events in the late 1990s. These events led to the introduction of forest policies targeting ecological conservation and rural development in China, a process epitomized by the launch of the Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program (CCFP) in 1999. Methods/design This systematic review responds to the question: What environmental and socioeconomic effects has the Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program had on land resources and human populations during its first 15 years? Following the published protocol, we searched for English language studies published between 1999 and 2014, and screened them for relevance and eligibility in two stages (titles and abstracts followed by full texts), after which they were further assessed for potential sources of bias (study quality assessment) before data extraction and analyses. Forty three studies were identified as meeting our inclusion and quality criteria following screening of 879 search results, indicating an overall lack of high quality studies with primary data on the impacts of CCFP. Eighty per cent of county-level case studies were conducted in only four provinces, and 13 of the 25 provinces where the CCFP is implemented are not represented by these county-level cases in the review. The review also includes, however, four national level studies covering 20 provinces and seven regional level studies, each covering several provinces. The majority of studies were published after 2009 and evaluated impacts within the first five years of CCFP implementation, such that the long term impacts of the program remain open for further investigation. Results The skewed temporal and geographic distribution of studies limits the generalizability of the results, though the evidence base confirms a substantial increase in forest cover and associated carbon stocks linked to reallocation of sloping agricultural land to forest. To some degree, soil erosion has been controlled and flood risk reduced at local scales. Meanwhile household incomes have increased and rural employment has readjusted towards off-farm sectors. However, studies also indicate instances of diminished food security and increasing social inequality. Finally, several studies indicate suboptimal regional or localized tradeoffs among specific ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration vs. water discharge rates, flood control vs. riparian soil replacement, and forest productivity vs. biodiversity. Conclusions Additional research on long-term environmental impacts and program effects in under-studied regions, particularly southern and western provinces, is necessary. In terms of recommendations for future research on the CCFP, there is a significant need to examine confounding factors, ideally through the selection of matching control groups to CCFP participants, and to ensure sampling methodologies are more representative of selected study sites and the overall targeted area. There remain many opportunities to assess specific socioecological effects, upon which to base future policy decisions and more broadly inform ecological restoration and eco-compensation in both theory and practice.
Subject: 4112 Forestry
Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program, Sloping Land Conversion Program, Grain- for- Green, Upland Conversion Program, payments for ecosystem services, land use change, soil erosion, flooding, poverty alleviation, social equality.
Peer reviewed: Yes
Rights: cc_by
Usage restriction: openAccess
Self-archived version: publishedVersion

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