Ecosystem service as a concept has been adopted in China since the end of the 20th century. Influenced by Constanza’s seminar work (1997), scholars in China conducted extensive studies on ecosystem services in China. By far China ranks the second in numbers of papers published on ecosystem service (1221 papers, Web of Science, accessed on November 14, 2015), only after United States (1349 papers). Outside of the academic world, the Chinese government also leads in applying the ecosystem service concept in natural resource management. Since 2005, the eco-compensation mechanism has been listed as a key field by the State Council of China. The central government leads a national effort to build up payment for ecosystem services in for forests, wetlands, water resources, mines, protected areas, and marine systems. Investments from the central government has increased from 0.35 billion USD in 2001 to 2.44 billion USD in 2013. The legislators in China are now examining the draft of Regulation of Eco-compensation and the idea of passing a law on eco-compensation is also proposed. The scale and impact of applications of ecosystem service concept in natural resource management in China is unprecedented.
The idea of forming a national network in China is motivated by the opportunity of integrating the research and applications of the ecosystem service concept offered by ESP. Ten years after the release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report (2005), the ecosystem service concept has been widely accepted by various stakeholders in China. China is leading in many aspects in applying the concept in management. However, mainly issues surfaced in this process, such as how to define the rights and responsibility of protectors and beneficiaries and how to conduct fair evaluation of the impact of eco-compensation programs. Without clear answers to these questions, it is difficult to maintain the fairness, sustainability, and financial viability of the eco-compensation mechanism in China. ESP’s major aim is to enhance the science and practical application of ecosystem service assessment. This goal fits into China’s needs perfectly. China national network will use opportunity provided by ESP to work with partners worldwide to develop tools (e.g., models and guidelines) that allow the stakeholders to further incorporate the ecosystem service concept in their decision-making processes and to achieve win-win for both nature and livelihood of people who are affected by the eco-compensation programs.
The central goal of the proposed national network in China is to promote the research and application of ecosystem services assessment in China. The network will serves as a platform for stakeholders from the scientific research institutions, governmental agencies, industry, and private enterprises to exchange ideas and develop best management practices based on ecosystem services.