• Heng Zhao
  • Ying Zhao
  • Guiying Gao
  • Peter Ho

There is considerable debate about the causes of grassland degradation and desertification in China. The discussion is rekindled by recent studies that claim restoration. The reversal in degradation is attributed to policies, which include the grazing ban and the pasture contract system. Contrarily, this article maintains that these studies disregard the complexity and multilayered nature of grassland degradation, and questions whether aforementioned policies have had this effect. In this context, we report on one of the first long-term surveys (1995 and 2011) of herders' perceptions. The survey (492 valid responses) represents two ecoregions: the semiarid desert/steppe and Loess Plateau pasture. Based on the data, we adopted a renewed analytical model for scientists, termed the CCC-Framework. The model calls for caution in proposing certain restoration measures when uncertainties are identified around a “triple C”: (1) condition of vegetation; (2) causality of degradation; and (3) costs of implementation. According to this framework, we establish uncertainty about the condition of allegedly restored vegetation, with particular reference to herders' perceived rise in nonpalatable grass species. Moreover, causality between grassland restoration and effect is difficult to ascertain due the short time frame in which most studies have been conducted. Lastly, it is doubtful whether to date undetermined ecological benefits outweigh implementation costs, especially as the survey pinpointed herders' loss of livelihood without alternative income, illegal grazing, low legal understanding, and limited access to grassland rights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S26-S36
JournalRestoration Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018

    Research areas

  • CCC-Framework, desertification, grassland policy, grassland tenure privatization, grazing ban, pastoralism, rangeland

ID: 44964197