People on horseback

By Yanwen Wang, Song Hong, Jinzhu Wang, Jinyu Lin, Hang Mu, Liyuan Wei, Zhen Wang and Brett Bryan

Read the article here.

Under climate change and intensifying human pressures, maintaining and improving world’s stocks of natural assets (i.e., soil, minerals, air, water and biodiversity), ecosystem services (ES), and human wellbeing is a primary challenge. To understand nature’s contributions to people, it is critical to quantify the potential supply and demand—sources and beneficiaries—of ES as well as the ES flows between them. ES flows are important because a large share of ES are typically consumed far from where they are produced. Understanding ES supply, demand, and flows is essential for supporting human wellbeing, livelihoods, and economic development.

In this study, we mapped the supply, demand, and flows of four ES including freshwater provision, food provision, carbon sequestration (the process of capturing and storing atmospheric CO2), and cultural (recreation) services between the five Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan for the year 2016. Our case-study region hosts one of the largest dryland areas in the world, which is highly vulnerable to climate change and human activities. We quantified the spatial characteristics in ES supply and demand at local and regional scales and revealed complex distant interactions of ES flows between nations. Kazakhstan provided the greatest amount of ES to other countries, especially food provision and carbon sequestration, while Uzbekistan was the biggest ES beneficiary, especially from freshwater and food provision services.

Our analysis of trans-national ES flows helps to understand the complex distant interactions and rich interdependencies between people and nature between different countries. This information is essential for policy-making to balance human and ecological needs, enhance the management of natural assets, and sustain ES provision in our profoundly interconnected world.

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