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Journal of Geographical Sciences    2016, Vol. 26 Issue (7) : 969-982     DOI: 10.1007/s11442-016-1310-3
Orginal Article |
Responding to common questions on the conservation of agricultural heritage systems in China
MIN Qingwen1(),ZHANG Yongxun1,2,*JIAO Wenjun1(),SUN Xueping1,2
1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
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Although the urgency of their conservation has been recognized, Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since 2002 and China Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (China- NIAHS) certified by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) of China since 2012 are faced with questions as to why to conserve them, what is to be conserved, who should conserve them, and how? This paper attempts to clarify and respond to such questions focusing on the conservation of agricultural heritage systems in China based on a review of both theoretical and practical progress. Agricultural heritage systems exhibit a multitude of values for sustainable and equitable development and therefore should be conserved for both present and future generations. Unlike most conventional heritages, the conservation of agricultural heritage systems is a complex, systematic “engineering” in which both physical and biological components and associated socio-cultural processes should be conserved in a dynamic way. Farmers and heritage sites must benefit from the continuance of traditional agricultural production under the premise of ecological functions being sustained and traditional culture being inherited. For a more effective conservation, a multi- stakeholder process should be established involving governments at different levels, multi-disciplinary scientists, communities and farmers, and business enterprises as well as social organizations. As has been demonstrated, the conservation of agricultural heritage systems aims to promote the regional sustainable development, to improve the livelihood, food security and well-being of farm people, and to provide references for the development of modern agriculture in China.

Keywords Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)      China Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (China-NIAHS)      dynamic conservation      sustainable development      China     
Fund:Youth Talent Supporting Project of China Association for Science and Technology, No.2016010103;International Exchange and Cooperation Project of Ministry of Agriculture “Conservation of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in China in 2016”;Scientific Research Foundation for Youth Scholars of Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Issue Date: 29 July 2016
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MIN Qingwen
ZHANG Yongxun
*JIAO Wenjun
SUN Xueping
Cite this article:   
MIN Qingwen,ZHANG Yongxun,*JIAO Wenjun, et al. Responding to common questions on the conservation of agricultural heritage systems in China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2016, 26(7): 969-982.
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Table 1  Comparison between GIAHS and China-NIAHS selection criteria
Figure 1  Distribution of GIAHS and China-NIAHS in China

Note: Refer to Appendix 1 for the names of agricultural heritage systems represented by numbers

Level Stakeholder Main task Support needed
National National government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
line ministries
Develop/enhance national policies and legislation and make resources available to implement dynamic conservation and mainstreaming of GIAHS in the national program GIAHS concept and strategic focus, political support, technical and financial resources
(regional/ provincial/ district)
Province or district
government, NGOs,
businesses/ planning
Institutional development and networking
Implement national policies: coordinate involvement of practicing actors in dynamic conservation of GIAHS, organize application of policies like payment for biodiversity, water services, promote cultural diversity
Supporting national policies and resources
Local farmers, local government, local
businesses, academe
GIAHS dynamic conservation
Local innovation and knowledge sharing
Valorization and develop pride in
tradition and culture
Participate in decentralized governance and natural resources management
Communicate needs to higher governance levels
Capacity building, local empowerment, payment for environmental services,
market access and development
Research Academe Link concepts and practice
Develop operational systems (biodiversity, socio-ecology, institutional development)
Global conceptual clarity
Private sector and/or
line ministries in trade, industry and/or
Link productivity, quality and payments, niche products, eco-tourism, etc. Legal framework for labeling of methods and origins of
production etc.
Table 2  Participation strategy of multi-stakeholders at different levels (dela Cruz and Koohafkan, 2009)
No. Batch Designation Year
1 1 2013/2005 Qingtian Rice-Fish Culture , Zhejiang Province
2 1 2013/2010 Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yunnan Province
3 1 2013/2010 Wannian Traditional Rice Culture, Jiangxi Province
4 1 2013/2011 Congjiang Dong’s Rice-Fish-Duck System, Guizhou Province
5 1 2013/2012 Pu’er Traditional Tea Agrosystem, Yunnan Province
6 1 2013/2012 Aohan Dryland Farming System, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
7 1 2013/2013 Xuanhua Traditional Vineyards, Hebei Province
8 1 2013/2013 Shaoxing Kuaijishan Ancient Chinese Torreya, Zhejiang Province
9 1 2013/2014 Jiaxian Traditional Chinese Date Gardens, Shaanxi Province
10 1 2013/2014 Fuzhou Jasmine and Tea Culture System, Fujian Province
11 1 2013/2014 Xinghua Duotian Agrosystem, Jiangsu Province
12 1 2013 Anshan Nanguo Pear Planting System, Liaoning Province
13 1 2013 Kuandian Traditional Shizhu Ginseng Cultivation System, Liaoning Province
14 1 2013 Youxi Lianhe Rice Terraces, Fujian Province
15 1 2013 Xinhua Ziquejie Rice Terraces, Hunan Province
16 1 2013 Yangbi Juglans Sigillata Dode and Crops Composite System, Yunnan
17 1 2013 Shichuan Traditional Pear Gardens, Gansu Province
18 1 2013 Zhagana Agro-Sylvo-Pastoral Compound System, Gansu Province
19 1 2013 Turfan Karez Agrosystem, Xinjiang Autonomous Region
20 2 2014 Cuizhuang Ancient Winter Jujube Gardens, Tianjin
21 2 2014 Kuancheng Traditional Chinese Chestnut Planting System, Hebei Province
22 2 2014 Shexian Dryland Terraces, Hebei Province
No. Batch Designation Year
23 2 2014 Arhorchin Grassland Nomadic System, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
24 2 2014 Hangzhou West Lake Longjing Tea Culture System, Zhejiang Province
25 2 2014 Huzhou Mulberry-Dyke-Fish-Pond System, Zhejiang Province
26 2 2014 Qingyuan Mushroom Culture System, Zhejiang Province
27 2 2014 Anxi Tieguanyin Tea Culture System, Fujian Province
28 2 2014 Chongyi Hakka Rice Terraces, Jiangxi Province
29 2 2014 Xiajin Ancient Mulberry Groves in Old Yellow River Course,
Shandong Province
30 2 2014 Yangloudong Brick Tea Culture System, Hubei Province
31 2 2014 Xinhuang Dong-Treasured-Red-Rice Culture System, Hunan Province
32 2 2014 Chao’an Camellia sinens Tea Culture System, Guangdong Province
33 2 2014 Lonhsheng Longji Rice Terraces, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
34 2 2014 Jiangyou Traditional Magnolia Flower Planting System, Sichuan Province
35 2 2014 Guangnan Babao Rice Culture System, Yunnan Province
36 2 2014 Jianchuan Rice-Wheat Rotation Farming System, Yunnan Province
37 2 2014 Minxian Angelica Sinensis Cropping System, Gansu Province
38 2 2014 Lingwu Long Jujube Cropping System, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
39 2 2014 Hami Melon Cultivation System, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
40 3 2015 Pinggu Sizuolou Juglans hopeiensis Planting System, Beijing
41 3 2015 Jing-Xi-Rice Culture System, Beijing
42 3 2015 Huanren Jingzu Rice Culture System, Liaoning Province
43 3 2015 Yanbian Apple Pear Planting System, Jilin Province
44 3 2015 Fuyuan Fish Culture System of Hezhe Nationality, Heilongjiang Province
45 3 2015 Ning’an Xiangshui Rice Culture System, Heilongjiang Province
46 3 2015 Taixing Gingko Planting System, Jiangsu Province
47 3 2015 Xianju Waxberry Planting System, Zhejiang Province
48 3 2015 Yunhe Rice Terraces, Zhejiang Province
49 3 2015 Shouxian Quebei Irrigation Project (Anfeng Reservoir) and Irrigated Farming System, Anhui Province
50 3 2015 Xiuning Fishery System with Flowing Mountain Spring, Anhui Province
51 3 2015 Zaozhuang Ancient Jujube Forests, Shandong Province
52 3 2015 Laoling Jujube-crop Eco-farming System, Shandong Province
53 3 2015 Lingbao Ancient Valley-and-Plain Jujube Forest, Henan Province
54 3 2015 Enshi Gyokuro Tea Culture System, Hubei Province
55 3 2015 Longan “Na” Rice Culture System of Zhuang Nationality,
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
56 3 2015 Cangxi Snow Pear Planting System, Sichuan Province
57 3 2015 Meigu Tartary Buckwheat Farming System, Sichuan Province
58 3 2015 Huaxi Ancient Tea and Culture System, Guizhou Province
59 3 2015 Shuangjiang Mengku Ancient Tea and Culture System, Yunnan Province
60 3 2015 Yongdeng Kushui Rose Farming System, Gansu Province
61 3 2015 Zhongning Chinese Wolfberry Cultivation System, Ningxia Hui Autonomous
62 3 2015 Qitai Dryland Farming Landscape, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
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