Geopark ecosystem function assessments form an essential knowledge base for natural resource conservation and sustainable development. In this study, we evaluated changes in water retention and carbon sequestration in forests in the Huangshan United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Global Geopark (HUGG), China, from 2000 to 2015. We analyzed the relationship between these ecosystem functions and various controlling factors. The ecosystem functions in HUGG experienced significant changes during the study period. Water retention function increased slightly (0.15 m3
), while carbon sequestration increased sharply (25.57 g C m−2
), with both showing increased spatial homogenization. Increased precipitation significantly enhanced the water retention function, whereas a temperature increase had a positive effect on the carbon sequestration. Both water retention and carbon sequestration decreased significantly with increased tourist disturbance. Pearson’s correlation coefficient and variance partitioning analysis identified the climate factors and tourist disturbance controlling water retention and carbon sequestration, respectively. The fitted structural equation model showed that climate factors had a greater total impact on water retention than tourist disturbance, while the total impact of climate factors on carbon sequestration was far less than that due to tourist disturbance. This study untangled the relationship between ecosystem functions (water retention and carbon sequestration) and influential factors in the HUGG and clarified that climate factors and tourist disturbance were determinants of changes in these ecosystem functions. The results from this study provide scientific foundations for the sustainable management of natural ecosystems in the HUGG and other geoparks.
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