Balancing ecological conservation with socioeconomic development

Abstract

Ecological restoration and conservation are primary components of sustainable development around the world, particularly during the contemporary era of climate change. However, restoration and conservation are not free; they consume huge amounts of resources that would otherwise support social and economic development. Therefore, excessive conservation creates a risk of creating rather than eliminating poverty. Unfortunately, scientists have largely ignored the balance between these contrasting goals. Here, we discuss the concept of finding the threshold that represents a suitable balance between ecological conservation and economic development, thereby maximizing the benefits for both humans and the environment and promoting sustainable development. To demonstrate the concept, we examined China’s ecological restoration achievements and discussed some of the unforeseen negative consequences that accompanied these achievements to discuss how future policies could better balance ecological and socioeconomic goals.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41641002). We thank Geoffrey Hart of Montréal, Canada, for his help in writing this manuscript. We are also grateful for the comments and criticisms of an earlier version of this manuscript by our colleagues and by the journal’s reviewers.

Funding

This research was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41641002).

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SC designed the research. ZL, WL, and JX performed the data analysis. ZL and SC wrote the manuscript. All authors have approved the manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Shixiong Cao.

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The authors declare that they no conflicts of interest.

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Cao, S., Liu, Z., Li, W. et al. Balancing ecological conservation with socioeconomic development. Ambio (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-020-01448-z

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Keywords

  • Conservation threshold
  • Conservation trap
  • Degradation trap
  • Ecosystem degradation
  • Environmental conservation