Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (9): 1245-1260.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1896-y

• Research Articles •     Next Articles

Evaluating changes in ecological land and effect of protecting important ecological spaces in China

GAO Jixi1(), LIU Xiaoman1,*(), WANG Chao1, WANG Yong2, FU Zhuo1, HOU Peng1, LYU Na1   

  1. 1. Ministry of Ecology and Environment Center for Satellite Application on Ecology and Environment, Beijing 100094, China
    2. State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2020-11-30 Accepted:2021-07-10 Online:2021-09-25 Published:2021-09-16
  • Contact: LIU Xiaoman;
  • About author:Gao Jixi (1964-), PhD and Professor, specialized in regional ecological protection and restoration. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Key Research and Development Program of China(2017YFC0506506);National Key Research and Development Program of China(2016YFC0500206)


It is important to quantitatively analyze the effects of protection of important ecological spaces in China to ensure national ecological security. By considering changes in the ecological land, this study examines the effects of protecting three types of important natural ecological spaces in China from 1980 to 2018. Moreover, considering important ecological spaces and their surroundings yields differences in the effects of protection between internal and external spaces, where this can provide a scientific basis for the categorization and zoning of China’s land. The results show the following: (1) In 2018, the ratio of ecological land to important natural ecological spaces accounted for 92.64%. This land had a good ecological background that reflects the developmental orientation of important ecological spaces. (2) From 1980 to 2018, the area of ecological land in important ecological spaces shrank but the rate of reduction was lower than the national average, which shows the positive effect of regulating construction in natural ecological spaces. The restorative effects of ecological projects to convert farmland into forests and grasslands have been prominent. The expanded ecological land is mainly distributed in areas where such projects have been implemented, and the reduced area is concentrated in grain-producing areas of the Northeast China Plain and agricultural oases of Xinjiang. In the future, the government should focus on strengthening the management and control of these areas. (3) The area ratio of ecological land was the highest in national nature reserves. The rate of reduction in its area was the lowest and the trend of reduction was the smallest in national nature reserves, which reflects differences in the status of ecological protection among different spaces. (4) The ratio of ecological land to important ecological spaces was higher than that in the surrounding external space, and the rate of reduction in it was lower. Thus, the effects of internal and external protection had clear differences in terms of gradient.

Key words: ecological spaces, ecological land, spatial and temporal dynamic changes, protection effect, categorized and zoned governance