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Reforesting rural lands in China pays big dividends, Stanford researchers say
Date:5/11/2011

An innovative program to encourage sustainable farming in rural China has helped restore eroded forestland while producing economic gains for many farmers, according to a new study by Stanford University researchers.

Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"The Sloping Land Conversion Program, which began in 2000 after massive flooding caused in part by land clearing, focuses on China's largest source of soil erosion and flood risk farms on steep slopes," said study co-author Gretchen Daily, a professor of biology at Stanford.

The program aims to return more than 37 million acres of cropland on steep slopes back to forest or grassland. The government pays villagers in varying amounts of cash and rice to give up farming and find new sources of employment.

"It's a tremendously innovative program designed to address two critical problems securing the environment and providing economic opportunities for people in rural, desperately poor areas," said Daily, a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment and co-director of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford.

Natural capital

The Natural Capital Project has developed a software tool called InVEST that is helping the Chinese government decide where to focus conservation and restoration efforts, based on the potential return-on-investment for society in the form of ecosystem services such as water purification and biodiversity conservation.

"We can think of these life-support services as flowing from natural capital, like forests and wetlands, which provide very tangible, financially valuable services," said Daily. "Forests soak up tremendous amounts of water, filter it and release it gradually into rivers and streams that we use for drinking water, hydroelectric power and growing crops." In many ways, the environment can help mitigate damage from floods and even h
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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