Ecosystems under human pressure can undergo irreversible shifts,
including the collapse of essential services such as water quality.
Anticipating such tipping points is vital to understand links between
economic and environmental change and could avert ruin for poor
This project, set in eastern China, has compiled the world’s first data
on ecosystem services over decades and provides the world’s first
long-term data showing how regional social and economic changes have
affected air and water quality, biodiversity, and other key ecosystem
services. An Ecosystem Services Index, combining six ecological trends,
shows at a glance that during the last 40 years of intensifying
agriculture in this region, the natural systems that sustain farming
livelihoods have degraded by 50%. Trends for individual resources
highlight urgent problems and those that have responded well to policy
interventions. The work points the way for researchers and development
planners worldwide to predict, and avoid, irreparable damage to regional
ecosystems. This project created an international archive for long-term
eco-data, which will ease the process considerably.
ESPA. Unearthing history, preventing disaster: Long-term regional records of ecological and economic change can inform development planning. ESPA, UK (2011) 2 pp.
Unearthing history, preventing disaster: Long-term regional records of ecological and economic change can inform development planning