Establishment and maintenance of regulating ecosystem services in a dryland area of central Asia, illustrated using the Kökyar Protection Forest, Aksu, NW China, as an example
Abstract. The city of Aksu, situated at the northern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert in northwest China, is exposed to severe periodic dust and sand storms. In 1986, local authorities decided to establish a peri-urban shelterbelt plantation, the so-called Kökyar Protection Forest, with the aim of reducing dust and sand storm impacts on Aksu City by the regulating ecosystem services provided by the plantation. It was realised as a patchwork of poplar shelterbelts and orchards. The total area of the plantation reached 3800 ha in 2005. The Kökyar Protection Forest is used as a case study to answer the following question: under which institutional frameworks and to which financial conditions can peri-urban shelterbelts be established and maintained? The endeavour of planting the shelterbelt was made possible by the annual mass mobilisation of Aksu citizens, based on the Chinese regulation of the "National Compulsory Afforestation Campaigns". Establishment costs amounted to ca. CNY 60 000 ha−1 (ca. USD 10 000 ha−1). Permanent maintenance of the plantation is facilitated by leasing orchard plots to private fruit farmers. From the perspective of the local economy, annual farming net benefits generated by Kökyar fruit farmers more than compensate for annual government grants for maintenance, resulting in an average overall monetary net benefit of at least CNY 10 500 ha−1 (ca. USD 1600 ha−1) in the long term. 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.