Telecoupling ecosystem services through China’s prodigious N-S Water Transfer Project
The power of modern technology has made it possible to transport the benefits of ecosystems for human societies (ecosystem services) far from the source. In the February 2016 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Jianguo Liu and colleagues examine the consequences in a very dramatic example, China’s enormous South-North Water Transfer Project, designed conduct water from the Yangtze River basin hundreds of miles to three parched regions in the north. Construction began in 2002 and is expected to take 50 years. Though the water will flow with gravity on the Central route to Beijing, the Eastern route to the North China plain must flow uphill and tunnel under the Yellow River. The proposed Western route must pass the Bayankala Mountains.
Liu and colleagues propose that natural cause-and-effect feedback from the environmental consequences of the water diversion, disconnected by distance, may be replaced by information flows between sending and receiving locations, in the form of news, science, and protest movements. They explore the utility of “telecoupling,” a conceptual framework for studying socioeconomic and environmental interconnections between different places, for sustainable governance of large, connected systems.
Jianguo Liu, Wu Yang, Shuxin Li (2016) Framing ecosystem services in the telecoupled Anthropocene. Front Ecol Environ 14(1): 27–36, doi:10.1002/16-0188.1