Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (10): 1399-1414.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1552-3

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Comparison of ecosystem services provided by grasslands with different utilization patterns in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region

Bingzhen DU1,3(), Lin ZHEN1,2*(), Yunfeng HU1,2, Huimin YAN1,2, GROOT Rudolf DE3, Rik LEEMANS3   

  1. 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Resource and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China ;
    3. Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University and Research, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • Received:2017-05-23 Accepted:2017-10-23 Online:2018-10-25 Published:2018-10-25
  • About author:

    Author: Du Bingzhen (1981-), PhD Candidate, specialized in ecosystem services, ecological restoration, and eco- compensation. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41671517;National Key Research and Development Program of China, No.2016YFC0503700


Although several previous studies in Inner Mongolia examined the effects of ecological conservation on the delivery of ecosystem services, they were often limited in scope (few ecosystem services were assessed) and often suffered from confounding by spatial variation. In this study, we examined the impact of conservation measures (changes in grassland utilization patterns) on the provision of selected ecosystem services in three types of grasslands (meadow steppe in Hulun Buir, typical steppe in Xilin Gol, and semi-desert steppe in Ordos) in Inner Mongolia. We examined five utilization patterns: no use (natural grasslands), light use, moderate use, intensive use, and recovery sites (degraded sites protected from further use). Through household surveys and vegetation and soil surveys, we measured the differences in ecosystem services among the different grassland utilization patterns. We also identified spatial factors that confounded the quantification of ecosystem services in different types of grasslands. We found that light use generally provided high levels of ecosystem services in meadow steppe and typical steppe, with the main differences in the supporting ecosystem services. Surprisingly, we found no consistently positive impacts of strict conservation activities across the sites, since the results varied spatially and with respect to differences in the land-use patterns. Our study suggests that appropriate grassland utilization patterns can enhance the supply of ecosystem services and reduce negative effects on both household livelihoods and the environment.

Key words: ecosystem services, grasslands utilization pattern, natural resource management, soil, vegetation, household livelihoods