Comparing impacts of new cropping systems on biodiversity in traditional rural China

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Li, Li
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University College Cork
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This study selected six geographically-similar villages with traditional and alternative cultivation methods (two groups of three, one traditional and two alternatives) in two counties of Henan Province, China—a representative area of the Huang-huai-hai Plain representing traditional rural China. Soil heavy metal concentrations, floral and faunal biodiversity, and socio-economic data were recorded. Heavy metal concentrations of surface soils from three sites in each village were analysed using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS, chromium, nickel, copper, cadmium, and lead) and Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS, zinc). The floral biodiversity of four land-use types was recorded following the Braun-Blanquet coverage-abundance method using 0.5×0.5m quadrats. The faunal biodiversity of two representative farmland plots was recorded using 0.3×0.3m quadrats at four 0.1m layers. The socio-economic data were recorded through face-to-face interviews of one hundred randomly selected households at each village. Results demonstrate different cultivation methods lead to different impact on above variables. Traditional cultivation led to lower heavy metal concentrations; both alternative managements were associated with massive agrochemical input causing heavy metal pollution in farmlands. Floral distribution was significantly affected by village factors. Diverse cultivation supported high floral biodiversity through multi-scale heterogeneous landscapes containing niches and habitats. Faunal distribution was also significantly affected by village factor nested within soil depth. Different faunal groups responded differently, with Acari being taxonomically diverse and Collembola high in densities. Increase in manual labour and crop number in villages using alternative cultivation may positively affect biodiversity. The results point to the conservation potential of diverse cultivation methods in traditional rural China and other regions under social and political reforms, where traditional agriculture is changing to unified, large-scale mechanized agriculture. This study serves as a baseline for conservation in small-holding agricultural areas of China, and points to the necessity of further studies at larger and longer scales.
Biodiversity , Rural China , Flora , Fauna , Socioeconomic , Cultivation type , Heavy metal
Li, L. 2014. Comparing impacts of new cropping systems on biodiversity in traditional rural China. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.