Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of Western China


This project will pay special attention to eight areas, administratively including 12 provinces:

  • The Loess Plateau, defined by its location between the Lueliang Mountains, the Helan Mountains, and the Qinling Mountains
  • The Northwest Desert, an extremely arid desert in Northwest China
  • The Inner Mongolian Grassland, located in Northwest Arid China, bordering the Sino-Mongolian international boundary
  • The Sichuan Basin, one of the largest inland basins in China and one of the most populous agricultural regions in the world
  • The Guizhou Plateau, located at the second great topographic step in China
  • The Yunnan Plateau, located in the transitional belt between Qinghai-Xizang Frigid Plateau and Eastern Monsoon China
  • The Linnan Hills, south of the Nanling Mountains that are traditionally regarded as the divide between Central China and South China
  • The Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, located on China’s first great topographic step

Lead institutions

Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Institute of Forest Resources Information (Chinese Academy of Forestry), Environmental Information Center (State Environmental Protection Administration of People’s Republic of China).

Contact information:

  • Professor Jiyuan LIU
    Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research
    Chinese Academy of Sciences
    Building 917, Datun Road, Anwai, Beijing 100101, P.R. China
    Tel.: +86 10 6488 9281
    Fax: +86 10 6485 1844

Focal issues

By viewing all ecosystem services of western region of China simultaneously and in an integrated manner, past and potential future tradeoffs and their consequences are analyzed. The assessment aims to help protect and improve ecosystem services of the western region of China and to contribute to successful implementation of the western development strategy by considering a menu of possible policy and management options for sustaining ecosystem services. The specific and technical objectives include five aspects: to establish a data information system, to develop methods and models, to analyze tradeoffs among ecosystem services, to carry out studies on change detection, condition analysis and ecosystem scenarios, and to propose specific measures for policy implementation including environmental emergency responses.

Ecosystem services being assessed

Ecosystem services highlighted in this assessment include: ecological carrying capacity, ecological diversity, cultural and aesthetic values, recreational opportunities, manure, fodder and other socio-economically important products and services as well as relative issues including mechanisms of regional water circulation and spatial distribution of water resources, desertification, land-use and land-cover change, ecological environment protection and social-economic development.

Project outputs

The Western China assessment has several outputs to contribute to the overall Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, including a primary research report to be completed at end of 2003 and a final research report to be completed at the end of 2004. The project’s priority is to make the metadata available. This involves the exchange of methods and data with other participants and to place them in the public domain. Finally, the western China assessment plans on making the data and methods for other elective components of their specific assessments available to other participants.

Key features of assessment

China has pledged to strive for a major breakthrough in infrastructure construction and environmental development in its western region in 5-10 years to create a good start for western development. Because China’s western areas have a very fragile ecological environment and any irrational human activities might lead to irrecoverable ecological destruction, the integrated ecosystem assessment is absolutely necessary for both central decision- making and local decision making in implementing the western development strategy. The integrated assessment is particularly timely and valuable for the western development of China. The scenarios from the integrated assessment are useful for the decision-making of local governments and the central government in China. The integrated assessment will directly contribute to implementing the western development strategy.

Timeframe, budget

The primary research report will be submitted at end of 2003 and the final research report be submitted at the end of 2004. This assessment is estimated to cost $4 million US. Financial contributors to this assessment include: Ministry of Science & Technology of People’s Republic of China, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, National Institute of Environment Studies of Japan and other relative Chinese institutions.