Xiaodong Chen

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (20)70.51 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Payments for ecosystem services (PES) have increasingly been implemented to protect and restore ecosystems worldwide. The effectiveness of conservation investments in PES may differ under alternative policy scenarios and may not be sustainable because of uncertainties in human responses to policies and dynamic human-nature interactions. To assess the impacts of these interactions on the effectiveness of PES programs, we developed a spatially explicit agent-based model: human and natural interactions under policies (HANIP). We used HANIP to study the effectiveness of China’s Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP) and alternative policy scenarios in a coupled human-nature system, China’s Wolong Nature Reserve, where indigenous people’s use of fuelwood affects forests. We estimated the effects of the current NFCP, which provides a cash payment, and an alternative payment scenario that provides an electricity payment by comparing forest dynamics under these policies to forest dynamics under a scenario in which no payment is provided. In 2007, there were 337 km² of forests in the study area of 515 km². Under the baseline projection in which no payment is provided, the forest area is expected to be 234 km² in 2030. Under the current NFCP, there are likely to be 379 km² of forests in 2030, or an increase of 145 km² of forests to the baseline projection. If the cash payment is replaced with an electricity payment, there are likely to be 435 km² of forests in 2030, or an increase of 201 km² of forests to the baseline projection. However, the effectiveness of the NFCP may be threatened by the behavior of newly formed households if they are not included in the payment scheme. In addition, the effects of socio-demographic factors on forests will also differ under different policy scenarios. Human and natural interactions under policies (HANIP) and its modeling framework may also be used to assess the effectiveness of many other PES programs around the world.
    ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY 01/2014; 19(1). · 3.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: After long periods of deforestation, forest transition has occurred globally, but the causes of forest transition in different countries are highly variable. Conservation policies may play important roles in facilitating forest transition around the world, including China. To restore forests and protect the remaining natural forests, the Chinese government initiated two nationwide conservation policies in the late 1990s – the Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP) and the Grain-To-Green Program (GTGP). While some studies have discussed the environmental and socioeconomic effects of each of these policies independently and others have attributed forest recovery to both policies without rigorous and quantitative analysis, it is necessary to quantify the outcomes of these two conservation policies simultaneously because the two policies have been implemented at the same time. To fill this knowledge gap, this study quantitatively evaluated the effects of the two conservation policies on forest cover change between 2001 and 2008 in 108 townships located in two important giant panda habitat regions – the Qinling Mountains region in Shaanxi Province and the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary in Sichuan Province. Annual forest cover change rate was evaluated using a land-cover product (MCD12Q1) derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). This product proved to be highly accurate in the study region (overall accuracy was ca. 87%, using 425 ground truth points collected in the field), thus suitable for the forest change analysis performed. Results showed that within the timeframe evaluated, 94% of townships (i.e., 101 out of 108) in both regions exhibited either increases or no changes in forest cover. After accounting for a variety of socioeconomic and biophysical attributes, a linear regression model suggests that the GTGP had a positive and significant effect on the annual forest cover change rate after seven years of implementation. Our results also suggest that elevation has a significant positive effect on forest cover change, while the percentage of agricultural population, initial forest cover in 2001, and the interaction term of elevation and slope had negative significant effects. Findings from this study will be useful for evaluating the implementation of current conservation policies, designing future conservation policies, developing future giant panda habitat conservation projects, and achieving forest sustainability in China and elsewhere.
    Land Use Policy 07/2013; · 3.13 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the linkages between ecosystem services (ES) and human well-being (HWB) is crucial to sustain the flow of ES for HWB. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) provided a state-of-the-art synthesis of such knowledge. However, due to the complexity of the linkages between ES and HWB, there are still many knowledge gaps, and in particular a lack of quantitative indicators and integrated models based on the MA framework. To fill some of these research needs, we developed a quantitative index system to measure HWB, and assessed the impacts of an external driver – the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake – on HWB. Our results suggest that our proposed index system of HWB is well-designed, valid and could be useful for better understanding the linkages between ES and HWB. The earthquake significantly affected households' well-being in our demonstration sites. Such impacts differed across space and across the five dimensions of the sub-index (i.e., the basic material for good life, security, health, good social relations, and freedom of choice and action). Since the conceptual framework is based on the generalizable MA framework, our methods should also be applicable to other study areas.
    PLoS ONE 05/2013; 8:e64582. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Conservation policies are emerging in many places around the world, many of which involve payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes. PES schemes provide economic incentives for forgoing land uses that reduce the provision of ecosystem services. The efficiency of such schemes depends not only on the ecosystem services provided by an area but also on the willingness of local people to forgo their land use activities. Targeting land for enrollment in PES schemes on the basis of the potential provision of ecosystem services and on the willingness to forgo certain economic activities, may therefore improve the efficiency of these schemes. The objective of this study was to develop a targeting approach, based on three surrogates derived from remotely sensed and ancillary data, for identifying land to be enrolled in one of the largest PES schemes in the world: China's Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP). The GTGP encourages farmers to return steep hillside cropland to forest by providing cash, grain and tree seedlings. The three surrogates used in the targeting approach were slope index, cropland probability, and GTGP enrollment probability. Combining these surrogates through Bernoulli trials allows targeting areas under cropland, with low opportunity costs for farmers and with potentially high soil erosion and landslide susceptibility. Results of applying the targeting approach in a case study area (Baoxing County, Sichuan Province, China) show that around half of the land currently enrolled is placed in areas with gentle slopes and tend to be located distant from forest areas. This reduces the potential benefits obtained from the GTGP. Targeting land using the proposed approach may double the benefits obtained from the program under the same budget, thus improving its efficiency. The approach may be applied to the entire GTGP implementation area in China and with proper modifications it may also be applicable to similar PES programs around the world.
    Ecological Indicators 03/2013; · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Rapid environmental degradation in China makes understanding how perceived exposure to environmental harm influences environmental attitudes and participation in pro-environmental behaviors among the Chinese people crucial. We used a nation-wide survey dataset in urban China to test two hypotheses: experiencing environmental harm directly affects environmental behavior; environmental attitudes mediate the relationship between experiencing environmental harm and environmental behavior. We found respondents who experienced environmental harm had more pro-environmental attitudes. Experiencing environmental harm positively influenced pro-environmental behavior both directly and indirectly through the mediation of pro-environmental attitudes. Among the pro-environmental behaviors, environmental litigation was most strongly related with exposure to environmental harm. Our results suggest that more participation in pro-environmental behaviors may be expected as rapid economic development increases public exposure to environmental harm in urban China.
    AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment 07/2012; · 2.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Conservation investments are increasingly being implemented through payments for ecosystem services (PES) for the protection and restoration of ecosystem services around the world. Previous studies suggested that social norms have substantial impacts on environmental behaviors of humans, including enrollment of PES programs. However, it is still not well understood how social norms are affected by the design of PES programs and how the evolution of social norms may affect the efficiency of conservation investments. In this paper, we developed an agent-based simulation model to demonstrate the evolution and impacts of social norms on the enrollment of agricultural land in a PES program. We applied the model to land plots that have been enrolled in China's Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP) to examine reenrollment in an alternative payment program when the current payments ceased. The study was conducted in Wolong Nature Reserve where several thousand plant and animal species, including giant pandas, may benefit from the reenrollment. We found that over 15% more GTGP land can be reenrolled at the same payment if social norms were leveraged by allowing more than ten rounds of interactions among landholders regarding their reenrollment decisions. With only three rounds of interactions, an additional 7.5% GTGP land was reenrolled at the same payment due to the effects of social norms. In addition, the effects of social norms were largest at intermediate payments and were smaller at much higher or much smaller payments. Even in circumstances where frequent interactions among landholders about their enrollment decisions are not feasible, policy arrangements that divide households into multiple waves for sequential enrollment can enroll over 11% more land at a given payment level. The approach presented in this paper can be used to improve the efficiency of existing PES programs and many other conservation investments worldwide.
    Ecological Modelling 03/2012; 229:16-24. · 2.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Protected areas worldwide are facing increasing pressures to co-manage human development and biodiversity conservation. One strategy for managing multiple uses within and around protected areas is zoning, an approach in which spatial boundaries are drawn to distinguish areas with varying degrees of allowable human impacts. However, zoning designations are rarely evaluated for their efficacy using empirical data related to both human and biodiversity characteristics. To evaluate the effectiveness of zoning designations, we developed an integrated approach. The approach was calibrated empirically using data from Wolong Nature Reserve, a flagship protected area for the conservation of endangered giant pandas in China. We analyzed the spatial distribution of pandas, as well as human impacts (roads, houses, tourism infrastructure, livestock, and forest cover change) with respect to zoning designations in Wolong. Results show that the design of the zoning scheme could be improved to account for pandas and their habitat, considering the amount of suitable habitat outside of the core zone (area designated for biodiversity conservation). Zoning was largely successful in containing houses and roads to their designated experimental zone, but was less effective in containing livestock and was susceptible to boundary adjustments to allow for tourism development. We identified focus areas for potential zoning revision that could better protect the panda population without significantly compromising existing human settlements. Our findings highlight the need for evaluating the efficacy of zoning in other protected areas facing similar challenges with balancing human needs and conservation goals, not only in China but also around the world.
    Biological Conservation 12/2011; · 3.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Conservation policies are increasing in response to human-induced ecosystem degradation, but little is known about their interplay with natural disasters. Through an analysis of satellite imagery and field data we evaluated the impacts of a devastating earthquake on forest recovery and avoided forest loss estimated to have been obtained by two of the largest conservation programs in the world. Results show that more than 10% of the forests in Wenchuan County, Sichuan province, China were immediately affected by the 2008 earthquake, offsetting some gains in forest cover observed since the enactment of the conservation programs. But without the enactment of these conservation programs, the combined effects of human disturbance and earthquake-induced landslides could have severely reduced the region's forest cover. The continuation--and enhancement--of incentives for participation in conservation programs will be important for reducing the environmental impacts of the combined effects of human disturbance and natural hazards not only in the study area but also in many disaster-prone regions around the world.
    AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment 05/2011; 40(3):274-84. · 2.30 Impact Factor
  • AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment 05/2011; 40(3):274-284. · 2.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: c1 Correspondence: Dr Xiaodong Chen e-mail: chenxia2@msu.edu
    Environmental Conservation 02/2011; 38(01):45 - 52. · 2.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Ecosystem services are being protected and restored worldwide through payments for ecosystem services in which participants are paid to alter their land-management approaches to benefit the environment. The efficiency of such investments depends on the design of the payment scheme. Land features have been used to measure the environmental benefits of and amount of payment for land enrollment in payment for ecosystem services schemes. Household characteristics of program participants, however, may also be important in the targeting of land for enrollment. We used the characteristics of households participating in China's Grain-to-Green program, and features of enrolled land to examine the targeting of land enrollment in that program in Wolong Nature Reserve. We compared levels of environmental benefits that can be obtained through cost-effective targeting of land enrollment for different types of benefits under different payment schemes. The efficiency of investments in a discriminative payment scheme (payments differ according to opportunity costs, i.e., landholders' costs of forgoing alternative uses of land) was substantially higher than in a flat payment scheme (same price paid to all participants). Both optimal targeting and suboptimal targeting of land enrollment for environmental benefits achieved substantially more environmental benefits than random selection of land for enrollment. Our results suggest that cost-effective targeting of land through the use of discriminative conservation payments can substantially improve the efficiency of investments in the Grain-to-Green program and other payment for ecosystem services programs.
    Conservation Biology 12/2010; 24(6):1469-78. · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Approximately 3 billion people, half of the World's population, are still using fuelwood in their daily lives. Fuelwood collection has been recognized as an important factor in habitat fragmentation and degradation and biodiversity loss, especially in developing countries. Understanding spatial and temporal patterns of fuelwood collection is fundamental to understanding human–environment interactions and designing effective conservation policies. Using Wolong Nature Reserve for giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in China as an example, we surveyed 200 rural households for the locations of their fuelwood collection sites in the past three decades (1970s, 1980s, and 1990s) and other ecological, economic, social, and demographic data. We found that fuelwood collection sites were becoming higher in elevation, more remote, and closer to highly suitable panda habitat from the 1970s to the 1990s. Consequently, fuelwood collectors were traveling longer distances to physically challenging areas, in our case, to areas of high-quality panda habitat. These spatial and temporal patterns of fuelwood collection suggest that future conservation policies for giant pandas, and other species worldwide, should also consider the needs of local communities.
    Landscape and Urban Planning 08/2009; 92:1-9. · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Humans have altered much of the natural land cover, resulting in ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss worldwide. Many countries have implemented conservation payment programs for agricultural land conversion to counter this trend. However, the sustainability of ecosystem services from these programs is unknown due to uncertainty about land uses when payments cease. We studied post-program land use plans for China’s Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP), one of the world’s largest ecosystem service payment programs, in Wolong Nature Reserve for giant pandas. Although farmers in the reserve planned to reconvert only 22.6% of the land that was enrolled in the GTGP to agriculture after payments cease, these GTGP plots are distributed across the landscape and may be important for many ecosystem services. Along with regional differences, the amount of GTGP land households planned to reconvert was significantly reduced by the respondent’s age and off-farm household income and was significantly increased by the number of household laborers and total amount of land the household had enrolled in the GTGP. Thus, regional, demographic and economic factors should be considered to more efficiently sustain conservation benefits from payment for ecosystem service programs.
    Biological Conservation 08/2009; 142(8):1740-1747. · 3.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: An increasing amount of investment has been devoted to protecting and restoring ecosystem services worldwide. The efficiency of conservation investments, including payments for ecosystem services (PES), has been found to be affected by biological, political, economic, demographic, and social factors, but little is known about the effects of social norms at the neighborhood level. As a first attempt to quantify the effects of social norms, we studied the effects of a series of possible factors on people's intentions of maintaining forest on their Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP) land plots if the program ends. GTGP is one of the world's largest PES programs and plays an important role in global conservation efforts. Our study was conducted in China's Wolong Nature Reserve, home to the world-famous endangered giant pandas and >4,500 farmers. We found that, in addition to conservation payment amounts and program duration, social norms at the neighborhood level had significant impacts on program re-enrollment, suggesting that social norms can be used to leverage participation to enhance the sustainability of conservation benefits from PES programs. Moreover, our results demonstrate that economic and demographic trends also have profound implications for sustainable conservation. Thus, social norms should be incorporated with economic and demographic trends for efficient conservation investments.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2009; 106(28):11812-7. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    Landscape and Urban Planning 01/2009; 93(1):92-92. · 2.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Ecotourism is widely promoted as a conservation tool and actively practiced in protected areas worldwide. Theoretically, support for conservation from the various types of stakeholder inside and outside protected areas is maximized if stakeholders benefit proportionally to the opportunity costs they bear. The disproportional benefit distribution among stakeholders can erode their support for or lead to the failure of ecotourism and conservation. Using Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas (China) as an example, we demonstrate two types of uneven distribution of economic benefits among four major groups of stakeholders. First, a significant inequality exists between the local rural residents and the other types of stakeholder. The rural residents are the primary bearers of the cost of conservation, but the majority of economic benefits (investment, employment, and goods) in three key ecotourism sectors (infrastructural construction, hotels/restaurants, and souvenir sales) go to other stakeholders. Second, results show that the distribution of economic benefits is unequal among the rural residents inside the reserve. Most rural households that benefit from ecotourism are located near the main road and potentially have less impact on panda habitat than households far from the road and closer to panda habitats. This distribution gap is likely to discourage conservation support from the latter households, whose activities are the main forces degrading panda habitats. We suggest that the unequal distribution of the benefits from ecotourism can be lessened by enhancing local participation, increasing the use of local goods, and encouraging relocation of rural households closer to ecotourism facilities.
    Environmental Management 12/2008; 42(6):1017-1025. · 1.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To address devastating environmental crises and to improve human well-being, China has been implementing a number of national policies on payments for ecosystem services. Two of them, the Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP) and the Grain to Green Program (GTGP), are among the biggest programs in the world because of their ambitious goals, massive scales, huge payments, and potentially enormous impacts. The NFCP conserves natural forests through logging bans and afforestation with incentives to forest enterprises, whereas the GTGP converts cropland on steep slopes to forest and grassland by providing farmers with grain and cash subsidies. Overall ecological effects are beneficial, and socioeconomic effects are mostly positive. Whereas there are time lags in ecological effects, socioeconomic effects are more immediate. Both the NFCP and the GTGP also have global implications because they increase vegetative cover, enhance carbon sequestration, and reduce dust to other countries by controlling soil erosion. The future impacts of these programs may be even bigger. Extended payments for the GTGP have recently been approved by the central government for up to 8 years. The NFCP is likely to follow suit and receive renewed payments. To make these programs more effective, we recommend systematic planning, diversified funding, effective compensation, integrated research, and comprehensive monitoring. Effective implementation of these programs can also provide important experiences and lessons for other ecosystem service payment programs in China and many other parts of the world.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2008; 105(28):9477-82. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    M Nils Peterson, Xiaodong Chen, Jianguo Liu
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    ABSTRACT: Successful conservation efforts require understanding human behaviors that directly affect biodiversity. Choice of household location represents an observable behavior that has direct effects on biodiversity conservation, but no one has examined the sociocultural predictors of this choice relative to its environmental impacts. We conducted a case study of the Teton Valley of Idaho and Wyoming (U.S.A.) that (1) explored relationships between sociodemographic variables, environmental attitudes, and the environmental impact of household location choices, (2) assessed the potential for small household sizes in natural areas to multiply the environmental impacts of household location decisions, and (3) evaluated how length of residency predicted the environmental attitudes of people living in natural areas. We collected sociodemographic data, spatial coordinates, and land-cover information in a survey of 416 households drawn from a random sample of Teton Valley residents (95% compliance rate). Immigrants (respondents not born in the study area) with the lowest education levels and least environmentally oriented attitudes lived in previously established residential areas in disproportionately high numbers, and older and more educated immigrants with the most environmentally oriented attitudes lived in natural areas in disproportionately high numbers. Income was not a significant predictor of household location decisions. Those living in natural areas had more environmental impact per person because of the location and because small households (<3 people/household) were 4 times as likely in natural areas as large households. Longer residency in natural areas predicted less environmentally oriented attitudes, suggesting that living in natural areas does not foster more concern for nature. Because populaces are rapidly aging, growing more educated, and potentially growing more environmentally oriented, these patterns are troubling for biodiversity conservation. Our results demonstrate a need for environmentalists to make household location decisions that reflect their environmental attitudes and future research to address how interactions between education level, environmental attitudes, population aging, and household location choices influence biodiversity conservation.
    Conservation Biology 05/2008; 22(4):912-21. · 4.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Global biodiversity loss is largely driven by human activities such as the conversion of natural to human-dominated landscapes. A popular approach to mitigating land cover change is the designation of protected areas (e.g., nature reserves). Nature reserves are traditionally perceived as strongholds of biodiversity conservation. However, many reserves are affected by land cover changes not only within their boundaries, but also in their surrounding areas. This study analyzed the changes in habitat for the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) inside Wolong Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China, and in a 3-km buffer area outside its boundaries, through a time series of classified satellite imagery and field observations. Habitat connectivity between the inside and the outside of the reserve diminished between 1965 and 2001 because panda habitat was steadily lost both inside and outside the reserve. However, habitat connectivity slightly increased between 1997 and 2001 due to the stabilization of some panda habitat inside and outside the reserve. This stabilization most likely occurred as a response to changes in socioeconomic activities (e.g., shifts from agricultural to nonagricultural economies). Recently implemented government policies could further mitigate the impacts of land cover change on panda habitat. The results suggest that Wolong Nature Reserve, and perhaps other nature reserves in other parts of the world, cannot be managed as an isolated entity because habitat connectivity declines with land cover changes outside the reserve even if the area inside the reserve is well protected. The findings and approaches presented in this paper may also have important implications for the management of other nature reserves across the world.
    Ecological Applications 07/2007; 17(4):1019-30. · 3.82 Impact Factor
  • Population, Land Use, and Environment – Research Directions, Edited by Barbara Entwisle, Paul C. Stern, 09/2005: chapter 9: pages 217-237; The National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

Publication Stats

288 Citations
70.51 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012–2013
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
      • Department of Geography
      North Carolina, United States
    • Harvard University
      • Center for International Development
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2007–2013
    • Michigan State University
      • Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
      East Lansing, MI, United States