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Extending the timescale and range of ecosystem services through paleoenvironmental analyses, exemplified in the lower Yangtze basin

Record type: Article

In China, and elsewhere, long-term economic development and poverty alleviation need to be balanced against the likelihood of ecological failure. Here, we show how paleoenvironmental records can provide important multidecadal perspectives on ecosystem services (ES). More than 50 different paleoenvironmental proxy records can be mapped to a wide range of ES categories and subcategories. Lake sediments are particularly suitable for reconstructing records of regulating services, such as soil stability, sediment regulation, and water purification, which are often less well monitored. We demonstrate the approach using proxy records from two sets of lake sediment sequences in the lower Yangtze basin covering the period 1800–2006, combined with recent socioeconomic and climate records. We aggregate the proxy records into a regional regulating services index to show that rapid economic growth and population increases since the 1950s are strongly coupled to environmental degradation. Agricultural intensification from the 1980s onward has been the main driver for reducing rural poverty but has led to an accelerated loss of regulating services. In the case of water purification, there is strong evidence that a threshold has been transgressed within the last two decades. The current steep trajectory of the regulating services index implies that regional land management practices across a large agricultural tract of eastern China are critically unsustainable.

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Citation

Dearing, John A., Yang, Xiangdong and Dong, Xuhui et al. (2012) Extending the timescale and range of ecosystem services through paleoenvironmental analyses, exemplified in the lower Yangtze basin Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, (18), E1111-E1120. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1118263109).

More information

Published date: 12 April 2012
Organisations: Palaeoenvironment Laboratory (PLUS)

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 337361
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/337361
ISSN: 0027-8424
PURE UUID: 1bb93ab9-5ee0-49c6-9094-955df2b1142f
ORCID for John A. Dearing: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1466-9640
ORCID for Peter G. Langdon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2724-2643

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 25 Apr 2012 10:30
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 06:03

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Contributors

Author: John A. Dearing ORCID iD
Author: Xiangdong Yang
Author: Xuhui Dong
Author: Enlou Zhang
Author: Xu Chen
Author: Ke Zhang
Author: Weiguo Zhang
Author: Terence P. Dawson

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