Hidden Loss of Wetlands in China.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

To counter their widespread loss, global aspirations are for no net loss of remaining wetlands [1]. 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 [2]. Open water from dam construction flooded the original habitats of threatened terrestrial species and affected aquatic species by fragmenting wetland habitats [3]. 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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • 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

Published Date

  • September 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 29 / 18

Start / End Page

  • 3065 - 3071.e2

PubMed ID

  • 31474534

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1879-0445

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0960-9822

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.053


  • eng