Ecosystems under human pressure can undergo dramatic, irreversible shifts, including the collapse of essential services such as water quality or soil stability. This project produced Ecosystem Services Indices for the lower Yangtze Basin that showed regional managers at a glance that unsustainable development has severely degraded the resource base for the farming economy, and that there is an unsustainable trade-off between economic growth and ecological degradation in several sub-regional locations.
Individual time series for a range of ecosystem services show evidence for critical transitions transgressed since the 1980s, especially water quality. Other time series show evidence for increasing variability which may indicate progressive losses of resilience across the whole region. This means the area is becoming more vulnerable to extreme regional events, like storms and dry periods and also to global shocks, like commodity prices.
ESPA. Impact Stories: Unearthing history, preventing disaster. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA), UK (2013) 2 pp.