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Sustainability 2016, 8(12), 1272;

Evaluating the Sustainability of Nature Reserves Using an Ecological Footprint Method: A Case Study in China

Satellite Environmental Application Center, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Beijing 100094, China
Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Vincenzo Torretta, Yichun Xie, Xinyue Ye and Clio Andris
Received: 30 August 2016 / Revised: 29 October 2016 / Accepted: 1 December 2016 / Published: 6 December 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Ecosystems and Society in the Context of Big and New Data)
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Nature reserves are established to protect ecosystems and rare flora and fauna. However, with the rapid development of the social economy, many nature reserves are facing enormous pressures from human activities. The assessment of the sustainability of nature reserves is a fundamental task for the planning and management of such areas. In this study, the sustainability of China’s 319 national nature reserves (NRRs) was evaluated based on an ecological footprint (EF) method. The results indicated that the per capita ecological footprints of all national nature reserves increased 85.86% from 2000 to 2010. Meanwhile, the per capita biocapacity (BC) of all national nature reserves increased slightly, with a rate of increase of 1.79%. The ‘traffic light’ method was adopted to identify the sustainability status of those national nature reserves. It was found that currently (2010) 45% of NRRs were in the condition of ecological deficit. In terms of dynamic changes in EF and BC, only 16% of NRRs were sustainable. The 124 national nature reserves that were in the red light state were mainly distributed in Anhui Province, Chongqing City, Hunan, Guizhou, Fujian, Shandong Province, and Inner Mongolia. The percentage of nature reserves at the red light state in these areas were 83.3%, 66.7%, 64.7%, 62.5%, 58.3%, 57.1%, and 56.5%, respectively. The reserves in the red light state should be included in the priority concern level and should be strictly controlled in terms of population growth and the intensity of exploitation. The results of this study will provide more effective data for reference and for decision making support in nature reserve protection. View Full-Text
Keywords: national nature reserves; sustainability; ecological footprint method; ‘traffic light’ method national nature reserves; sustainability; ecological footprint method; ‘traffic light’ method

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Liu, X.; Jiang, D.; Wang, Q.; Liu, H.; Li, J.; Fu, Z. Evaluating the Sustainability of Nature Reserves Using an Ecological Footprint Method: A Case Study in China. Sustainability 2016, 8, 1272.

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