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Can nature's beauty lift citizens from poverty?
Date:4/27/2012

hanges are being made."

The PLoS One paper is co-authored by Christine Vogt, MSU professor of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies; Junyan Luo, research associate; Guangming He, research assistant; Kenneth Frank, professor of environmental and natural resources economics and fisheries and wildlife; and Jianguo "Jack" Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability. All but Vogt are members of CSIS; Jack Liu is director.

Wei Liu and his colleagues followed 220 families in Wolong from 1999 to 2007 as they rode the wave of change in an area shifting from farming to bringing in tourists, who wanted to see the land of the giant pandas as well as experience its beauty.

That wave abruptly stopped in 2008 with the massive Sichuan earthquake that measured 8.0 on the moment magnitude scale used by seismologists to calculate the size of earthquakes. Damage to roads and buildings from Sichuan still impedes business development today.

Wei Liu and team studied the impact of having resources in Wolong. Residents who already had money, were educated, and had relationships with governmental officials had a much greater chance of being successful with the arrival of nature-based tourism.

Lacking these resources made it harder, which is significant since many of China's programs and initiatives aim to lift people out of poverty.

"The policies haven't yet reached their full potential," Wei Liu said. "But now we have the data to show what's happening.

An interesting piece of the research was learning that people who are engaged in the tourism trade were more likely to acknowledge the tradeoffs between tourism development and conservation. Wei said they acknowledged that tourism increased noise, traffic congestion and disturbance to wildlife.

Wei Liu said this research can help China--and other countries around the world--with the next steps of developing policies to balance tourism with habitat
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Contact: Bobbie Mixon
bmixon@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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