Hidden Loss of Wetlands in China.
To counter their widespread loss, global aspirations are for no net loss of remaining wetlands . We examine whether this goal alone is sufficient for managing China's wetlands, for they constitute 10% of the world's total. Analyzing wetland changes between 2000 and 2015 using 30-m-resolution satellite images, we show that China's wetlands expanded by 27,614 km2
but lost 26,066 km2
-a net increase of 1,548 km2
(or 0.4%). This net change hides considerable complexities in the types of wetlands created and destroyed. The area of open water surface increased by 9,110 km2
, but natural wetlands-henceforth "marshes"-decreased by 7,562 km2
. Of the expanded wetlands, restoration policies contributed 24.5% and dam construction contributed 20.8%. Climate change accounted for 23.6% but is likely to involve a transient increase due to melting glaciers. Of the lost wetlands, agricultural and urban expansion contributed 47.7% and 13.8%, respectively. The increase in wetlands from conservation efforts (6,765 km2
) did not offset human-caused wetland losses (16,032 km2
). The wetland changes may harm wildlife. The wetland loss in east China threatens bird migration across eastern Asia . Open water from dam construction flooded the original habitats of threatened terrestrial species and affected aquatic species by fragmenting wetland habitats . Thus, the "no net loss" target measures total changes without considering changes in composition and the corresponding ecological functions. It may result in "paper offsets" and should be used carefully as a target for wetland conservation.
Xu, W; Fan, X; Ma, J; Pimm, SL; Kong, L; Zeng, Y; Li, X; Xiao, Y; Zheng, H; Liu, J; Wu, B; An, L; Zhang, L; Wang, X; Ouyang, Z
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