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Yujun Wang
Hongbo Yang
Vanessa Hull
Jindong Zhang
Xiaodong Chen
Xiang Li
Zejun Zhang
Cheng Li
Fang Wang
Zhiqiang Zhao
Ying Tang
, and
Jianguo Liu


The effects of various strategies aimed at simultaneously promoting environmental conservation and human development are closely related to sustainable development regionally and globally. However, although the effects of many such strategies have been evaluated by ecologists and sociologists separately, their ability to simultaneously meet these two anticipated goals (i.e., environmental conservation and human development) at the fine spatial scale remains unclear. To answer this fundamental but crucial question, incorporating household and forest change data, we concurrently estimated the ecological and socioeconomic effects of two world-renowned Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs (i.e., the Nature Forest Conservation Program, the Grain to Green Program) and nature-based tourism in 30 protected areas across 8 provinces in China. Here we showed a trade-off between the ecological and economic effects of two PES programs, while synergistic effects exist in the ecological and economic benefits of tourism. Attributes of household and protected areas significantly influenced economic and environmental benefits as well. Our research provides new insights into the complex effects of PES programs and tourism, and crucial information to support their adequate and sustainable implementation in China and the rest of the world.

Significance Statement

This work answers a fundamental but crucial question, that is, whether the policies commonly advocated to incorporate environmental conservation and human development can yield positive effects both for conservation and economic development. Our evaluation is also timely to inform some shortness (i.e., negligible economic effects, or the lack of expected positive economic benefits) and provides new insights (e.g., the implication of households and protected-areas attributes in conservation and economic outcomes) of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs and the complex effects of instruments in the context of multiple policies, particularly given the upcoming 2030 deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). We expected that implications in this study can provide important lessons for these two instruments, other PES programs, and other conservation and development instruments to support their adequate and sustainable implementation in China and beyond and to contribute to the achievement of relevant SDGs in the remaining years.

Open access