Establishment and maintenance of regulating ecosystem services in a dryland area of Central Asia: the Kökyar Protection Forest, Aksu, NW China, as an example
Earth System Dynamics Discussions
The city of Aksu, situated at the northern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert in the northwest of China, is exposed to periodic severe dust and sand storms. In 1986, local authorities decided to establish a peri-urban shelterbelt plantation, the so-called Kökyar Protection Forest. It was realised as a patchwork of poplar shelterbelts and orchards. The total area of the plantation reached 3800 ha in 2005. This endeavour was made possible by the annual mass mobilisation of Aksu citizens, based on
... tizens, based on the Chinese regulation of the "National Compulsory Afforestation Campaigns". Establishment costs amounted to ca. CNY 60 000 ha<sup>−1</sup> (ca. USD 10 000 ha<sup>−1</sup>). The regulating ecosystem services provided by Kökyar Protection Forest clearly reduce dust and sand storm impacts on Aksu City. Permanent maintenance of the plantation is facilitated by leasing orchard plots to private fruit farmers. This system ensures forest tending, reduces government expenses, and provides incomes to farmers. From the perspective of the local economy, annual farming net benefits generated by Kökyar fruit farmers more than compensate annual government grants for maintenance, resulting in an overall monetary net benefit of at least CNY 10 500 ha<sup>−1</sup> (ca. USD 1600 ha<sup>−1</sup>) on the long-term average. The intended regulating ecosystem services can thus be provided to the citizens of Aksu without payments for ecosystem services or other financial burdens. For a more complete understanding of Kökyar Protection Forest, future research should be directed towards quantifying the effect of its regulating ecosystem services, and on investigating the negative downstream consequences of its water consumption.