Biodiversity conservation and sustainable community well-being in China – challenges and opportunities
Convened by: Samuel Turvey
China is a vast, “megadiverse” country containing a wide range of ecosystems and species. Chinese biodiversity is associated with extensive cultural diversity and a large human population, which is closely reliant on ecosystem services and natural resources in linked “biocultural” social-ecological systems . However, population growth and economic development are driving extreme resource overexploitation, habitat loss, and species range contractions and extinctions, establishing China as a global conservation hotspot; threatened species now often persist only in heavily modified landscapes in close proximity to human settlement, with extensive potential for human-wildlife conflict, exploitation and/or disturbance and with high risk of extinction [2-3]. Ongoing loss of natural resources and ecosystem services, and the fragile survival potential of many wild populations, has also caused widespread disruption of social-ecological systems, weakening community resilience and cultural integrity and impacting human well-being across China. However, actions to protect remaining biodiversity often drive further exclusion and disconnection of low-income communities from natural resources and traditional sources of income and livelihood upon which they may be highly dependent. Understanding the challenges to successful maintenance of both human and ecosystem wellbeing across China has wider global implications: China represents the “future” of conservation challenges that are yet to be faced in many other parts of world. It is therefore imperative to evaluate the current status of local community interactions with biodiversity in China, to identify environmental and socio-economic factors and management strategies associated with stable or unstable resource use, effective management of threatened species, maintenance of ecosystem services, and continued integrity of local cultures and livelihoods [4-6]. This symposium provides an overview of the status of social-ecological systems across China in order to identify successful strategies for maintaining biodiversity and local community health, and to clarify the challenges that remain.
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