The effectiveness of the zoning of China's protected areas


Increasing human numbers and aspirations threaten protected areas worldwide. China faces especially strong pressure since many people live inside protected areas. It has sought to balance human needs and conservation goals within them by creating mixed zoning schemes loosely based on UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme. These include strictly-protected core zones, buffer zones allowing limited human use, and experimental zones that examine different land-use options. To test the efficacy of this zoning, we employed field surveys and remote sensing to assess the penetration of agricultural and urban land into 109 national nature reserves in China for 2000 and 2010. Human disturbance was lowest in core zones and highest in experimental zones in both 2000 and 2010. Over this period, 82% of the reserves were unchanged or had decreased human disturbance. Nonetheless, overall human disturbance increased by 7%, 4%, and 5% in the core, buffer and experimental zones respectively. Almost all the increase in the core zone was in four wetland reserves, where human actions converted large areas to agriculture. Some 58% of reserves experienced some human disturbance in core zones in 2010, demonstrating a need for more effective zoning. The findings have broader implications for protected area management globally because they highlight the strengths and weaknesses of zoning for balancing human needs and species conservation.





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Publication Info

Xu, Weihua, Xiaosong Li, Stuart L Pimm, Vanessa Hull, Jingjing Zhang, Lu Zhang, Yi Xiao, Hua Zheng, et al. (2016). The effectiveness of the zoning of China's protected areas. Biological Conservation, 204. pp. 231–236. 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.10.028 Retrieved from

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