Environ Monit Assess. 2023 Sep 15;195(10):1215. doi: 10.1007/s10661-023-11821-6.
Ecosystem restoration projects (ERPs) facilitate land degradation neutrality (LDN). However, the response dynamics and interactions of sectors within ecosystem-agriculture-economy nexus (EAEN) have not been sufficiently explored, which constrains the coordinated efficacy of LDN efforts. To bridge the knowledge gaps, the present study selected a land restoration hotspot in southeastern China as a case to investigate the simultaneous responses of the EAEN sectors to ERPs from a novel social-ecological system (SES)-based LDN perspective. Various biophysical models and Manne-Kendall trend test as well as multi-source spatially explicit data and socioeconomic statistics were applied to quantify the co-evolution of natural and socioeconomic indicators. ERPs converting cropland to woodland and grassland promoted vegetation restoration, reduced soil erosion, and enhanced carbon sequestration. However, cropland loss initially resulted in a decline in grain productivity. Policy adjustments and improvements in ecosystem restoration efforts and agricultural production conditions improved food security and increased agricultural production capacity. Effective policymaking and favorable resident engagement accelerated the transformation from a grain-production-based agriculture to diversified industries and, by extension, economic output, income, and population. The success of socioeconomic development under the SES framework for LDN demonstrated that this strategy could achieve the desired environmental, agricultural, and economic targets. EAEN under the SES conceptual framework provides an inclusive, comprehensive LDN perspective and improves ERP efficacy. The findings of the present work might be applicable to other land restoration areas challenged by the complex interactions among multidimensional factors. Comparably successful implementation of these ERPs could be realized if individual environmental and socioeconomic conditions are thoroughly considered during the formulation of coordinated development policies.