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Who determines the trade-offs between agricultural production and environmental quality? An evolutionary perspective from rural eastern China

Who determines the trade-offs between agricultural production and environmental quality? An evolutionary perspective from rural eastern China
Who determines the trade-offs between agricultural production and environmental quality? An evolutionary perspective from rural eastern China
We explore the evolutionary nature of interactions between government policy, farm decision-making and ecosystem services in Shucheng County, Anhui Province from 1950 to 2015. Analyses of ecological, social and economic trends are complemented by interviews with local farmers about their status, perceptions and attitudes. Since the introduction of the Household Responsibility System in 1980, the start of liberalisation, there has been a trade-off between rising levels of provisioning services and falling levels of regulating services in the environment, with some evidence that critical thresholds have been passed for water quality. Using a Framework for Ecosystem Service Provision, we argue that farmers have acted only as ecosystem service providers and have not influenced the national/regional policies that have brought about the trade-offs. Over the whole period, ecological degradation is best described as an example of ‘creeping normalcy’ where cumulative conventional actions by individual farmers produce unsustainable losses in regulating services. The Chinese government should be acting to balance the various ecosystem services through valuation and national policy. In this respect, there is a need for a new coordination of agencies that can deliver scientific and place-based advice to farmers that will allow them to maintain productivity levels while pursuing restorative actions. Even with new policies, the draw of urban employment and high production costs threaten the viability of farming in these marginal agricultural areas, especially over the next 10-15 years when most current farmers will retire.
1473-5903
347-366
Dearing, John
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Zhang, Ke
97613b03-d7a3-4abb-9013-82761331122b
Cao, Weidong
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Dawson, Terence
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Armstrong McKay, David
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Sillitoe, Paul
1a350fd2-5f5e-4aa3-a8bf-e4d2a6211f2d
Treves, Richard W.
e1028520-58a1-43db-979c-8b72cbf0b8d2
Yang, Xiangdong
7ecb5c8e-22cb-4f65-829d-8b3442dc6529
Dearing, John
dff37300-b8a6-4406-ad84-89aa01de03d7
Zhang, Ke
97613b03-d7a3-4abb-9013-82761331122b
Cao, Weidong
683f7024-f934-42ad-ad9e-a315940fdbb8
Dawson, Terence
e46ccc97-a1a2-4352-ac44-a8941fce7b3a
Armstrong McKay, David
9e7fc75d-311e-4980-9911-288d965a9e56
Sillitoe, Paul
1a350fd2-5f5e-4aa3-a8bf-e4d2a6211f2d
Treves, Richard W.
e1028520-58a1-43db-979c-8b72cbf0b8d2
Yang, Xiangdong
7ecb5c8e-22cb-4f65-829d-8b3442dc6529

Dearing, John, Zhang, Ke, Cao, Weidong, Dawson, Terence, Armstrong McKay, David, Sillitoe, Paul, Treves, Richard W. and Yang, Xiangdong (2019) Who determines the trade-offs between agricultural production and environmental quality? An evolutionary perspective from rural eastern China. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 17 (5), 347-366. (doi:10.1080/14735903.2019.1667141).

Record type: Article

Abstract

We explore the evolutionary nature of interactions between government policy, farm decision-making and ecosystem services in Shucheng County, Anhui Province from 1950 to 2015. Analyses of ecological, social and economic trends are complemented by interviews with local farmers about their status, perceptions and attitudes. Since the introduction of the Household Responsibility System in 1980, the start of liberalisation, there has been a trade-off between rising levels of provisioning services and falling levels of regulating services in the environment, with some evidence that critical thresholds have been passed for water quality. Using a Framework for Ecosystem Service Provision, we argue that farmers have acted only as ecosystem service providers and have not influenced the national/regional policies that have brought about the trade-offs. Over the whole period, ecological degradation is best described as an example of ‘creeping normalcy’ where cumulative conventional actions by individual farmers produce unsustainable losses in regulating services. The Chinese government should be acting to balance the various ecosystem services through valuation and national policy. In this respect, there is a need for a new coordination of agencies that can deliver scientific and place-based advice to farmers that will allow them to maintain productivity levels while pursuing restorative actions. Even with new policies, the draw of urban employment and high production costs threaten the viability of farming in these marginal agricultural areas, especially over the next 10-15 years when most current farmers will retire.

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Accepted/In Press date: 10 September 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 19 September 2019
Published date: 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 436839
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/436839
ISSN: 1473-5903
PURE UUID: 775e86a3-7c78-4072-b6e2-473892344f3f
ORCID for John Dearing: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1466-9640
ORCID for David Armstrong McKay: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0020-7461

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 10 Jan 2020 17:34
Last modified: 26 Nov 2021 06:51

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Contributors

Author: John Dearing ORCID iD
Author: Ke Zhang
Author: Weidong Cao
Author: Terence Dawson
Author: David Armstrong McKay ORCID iD
Author: Paul Sillitoe
Author: Richard W. Treves
Author: Xiangdong Yang

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