Hidden Loss of Wetlands in China.


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.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Xu, Weihua, Xinyue Fan, Jungai Ma, Stuart L Pimm, Lingqiao Kong, Yuan Zeng, Xiaosong Li, Yi Xiao, et al. (2019). Hidden Loss of Wetlands in China. Current biology : CB, 29(18). pp. 3065–3071.e2. 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.053 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23522.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Stuart L. Pimm

Doris Duke Distinguished Professor of Conservation Ecology in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences

Stuart Pimm is a world leader in the study of present-day extinctions and what can be done to prevent them. His research covers the reasons why species become extinct, how fast they do so, the global patterns of habitat loss and species extinction and, importantly, the management consequences of this research. Pimm received his BSc degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1974. Pimm is the author of over 350 scientific papers and five books. He is one of the most highly cited environmental scientists. Pimm wrote the highly acclaimed assessment of the human impact to the planet: The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth in 2001. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has led to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. He was worked and taught in Africa for nearly 30 years on elephants, most recently lions — through National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative — but always on topics that relate to the conservation of wildlife and the ecosystems on which they depend. Other research areas include the Everglades of Florida and tropical forests in South America, especially the Atlantic Coast forest of Brazil and the northern Andes — two of the world's "hotspots" for threatened species. His international honours include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006), the Society for Conservation Biology’s Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award (2006), and the Marsh Award for Conservation Biology, from the Marsh Christian Trust (awarded by the Zoological Society of London in 2004). Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, awarded him the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2007. In 2019, he won the International Cosmos Prize, which recognised his founding and directing Saving Nature, www.savingnature.org, a non-profit that uses donations for carbon emissions offsets to fund local conservation groups in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity to restore their degraded lands. 

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.