Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (5): 653-664    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-015-0049-5
Research Articles     
Impact of livelihood diversification of rural households on their ecological footprint in agro-pastoral areas of northern China
HAO Haiguang1, ZHANG Jiping2, LI Xiubin3, ZHANG Huiyuan1, ZHANG Qiang1,3
1 Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing 100012, China;
2 Beijing Municipal Research Institute of Environmental Protection, Beijing 100037, China;
3 Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
Download:   PDF(278KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      

Abstract   Human-environment relationship is a focus of academic researches and an understanding of the rela-tionship is important for making effective policies and decisions. In this study, based on rural household survey data of Taibus Banner, Duolun county and Zhengxiangbai Banner in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region of China, we identified the impact of livelihood diversification on ecosystems in these agro-pastoral areas by using the ecological footprint theory and methodology together with the one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and correlation analysis methods. In 2011, the total ecological footprint of consumption (EFC) was 0.665 g hm2, and the total ecological footprint of production (EFP) was 2.045 g hm2, which was more than three times the EFC. The ecological footprint of arable land consumption (EFAC) accounted for a large proportion of the EFC, and the ecological footprint of grassland production (EFGP) occupied a large proportion of the EFP. Both the ecological footprint of grassland consumption (EFGC) and EFGP had a significant positive correlation with the income, indicating that income was mainly depended on livestock production and the households with higher incomes consumed more livestock prod-ucts. The full-time farming households (FTFHs) had the highest EFP, ecological footprint of arable land production (EFAP), EFGP and EFGC, followed by the part-time farming households (PTFHs) and non-farming households (NFHs), which indicated that part-time farming and non-farming employment reduced the occupancy and con-sumption of rural households on local ecosystems and natural resources to some extent. When farming households engaged in livestock rearing, both the EFAP and EFAC became smaller, while the EFP, EFC, EFGC and EFGP increased significantly. The differences in ecological footprints among different household groups should be taken into account when making ecosystem conservation policies. Encouraging the laborers who have the advantages of participating in non-farming employment to move out of the rural areas and increasing the diversification of liveli-hoods of rural households are important in reducing the environmental pressures and improving the welfare of households in the study area. Moreover, grassland should be utilized more effectively in the future.

Key wordschlorophyll a      microbial biomass C      soil enzyme      physical-chemical properties      biological soil crusts     
Received: 22 December 2014      Published: 05 October 2015

National Natural Science Foundation of China (41161140352, 41471092).

Corresponding Authors: ZHANG Huiyuan     E-mail:
Cite this article:

HAO Haiguang, ZHANG Jiping, LI Xiubin, ZHANG Huiyuan, ZHANG Qiang. Impact of livelihood diversification of rural households on their ecological footprint in agro-pastoral areas of northern China. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(5): 653-664.

URL:     OR

Bilsborrow R E. 1992. Population growth, internal migration, and environmental degradation in rural areas of developing countries. European Journal of Population, 8(2): 125–148.

Caraveli H. 2000. A comparative analysis on intensification and exten-sification in Mediterranean agriculture: dilemmas for LFAs policy. Journal of Rural Studies, 16(2): 231–242.

Chen D D, Gao W S, Chen Y Q, et al. 2010. Ecological footprint analy-sis of food consumption of rural residents in China in the latest 30 years. Agriculture and Agricultural Science Procedia, 1: 106–115.

Cheng K, Pan G X, Smith P, et al. 2011. Carbon footprint of China’s crop production—an estimation using agro-statistics data over 1993–2007. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 142(3): 231–237.

Costanza R, de Groot R, Sutton P, et al. 2014. Changes in the global value of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change, 26: 152–158.

Department of Rural Survey of National Bureau of Statistics. 2010. 2010 China Yearbook of Rural Household Survey. Beijing: China Statistic Press, 4–6. (in Chinese)

Ellis F. 2000. Rural Livelihoods and Diversity in Developing Countries. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 56–74.

Erb K H. 2004. Actual land demand of Austria 1926–2000: a variation on ecological footprint assessments. Land Use Policy, 21(3): 247–259.

Ferng J J. 2011. Measuring and locating footprints: a case study of Taiwan’s rice and wheat consumption footprint. Ecological Eco-nomics, 71: 191–201.

Gellrich M, Zimmermann N E. 2007. Investigating the regional-scale pattern of agricultural land abandonment in the Swiss mountains: a spatial statistical modelling approach. Landscape and Urban Plan-ning, 79(1): 65–76.

Gondran N. 2012. The ecological footprint as a follow-up tool for an administration: application for the Vanoise National Park. Ecological Indicators, 16: 157–166.

Groom B, Grosjean P, Kontoleon A, et al. 2010. Relaxing rural con-straints: a ‘win-win’ policy for poverty and environment in China? Oxford Economic Papers, 62(1): 132–156.

Hao H G, Li X B, Zhang J P. 2013. Impacts of part-time farming on agricultural land use in ecologically-vulnerable areas in North China. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 4(1): 70–79.

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regional Bureau of Statistics. 2012. Inner Mongolia Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press, 696–705. (in Chinese)

Izquierdo A E, Grau H R, Aide T M. 2011. Implications of rural–urban migration for conservation of the Atlantic Forest and urban growth in Misiones, Argentina (1970–2030). Ambio, 40(3): 298–309.

Koulouri M, Giourga C. 2007. Land abandonment and slope gradient as key factors of soil erosion in Mediterranean terraced lands. Catena, 69(3): 274–281.

Li X B, Zhao Y L. 2011. Forest transition, agricultural land marginali-zation and ecological restoration. China Population, Resources and Environment, 21(10): 91–95. (in Chinese)

Liu D, Feng Z M, Yang Y Z, et al. 2011. Spatial patterns of ecological carrying capacity supply-demand balance in China at county level. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 21(5): 833–844.

Liu M C, Li W H. 2009. The calculation of China’s equivalence factor under ecological footprint mode based on net primary production. Journal of Natural Resources, 24(9): 1550–1559. (in Chinese)

Liu Q, Peng X C, Zhou L X, et al. 2010. Quantitative research on eco-logical compensation among every city of Guangdong Province based on ecological footprint and ecological carrying capacity. Me-teorological and Environmental Research, 1(6): 82–85.

Long K S, Chen L G. 2012. Theory construction and its application to ecological environment compensation based on ecological land rent. Journal of Natural Resources, 27(12): 2048–2056. (in Chinese)

Lorent H, Evangelou C, Stellmes M, et al. 2008. Land degradation and economic conditions of agricultural households in a marginal region of northern Greece. Global and Planetary Change, 64(3): 198–209.

Menconi M E, Stella G, Grohmann D. 2013. Revisiting the food component of the ecological footprint indicator for autonomous rural settlement models in Central Italy. Ecological Indicators, 34: 580–589.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Washington DC: Island Press, 87–108.

Monfreda C, Wackernagel M, Deumling D. 2004. Establishing national natural capital accounts based on detailed ecological footprint and biological capacity assessments. Land Use Policy, 21(3): 231–246.

Moran-Taylor M J, Taylor M J. 2010. Land and leña: linking transna-tional migration, natural resources, and the environment in Guate-mala. Population and Environment, 32(2–3): 198–215.

Nkemnyi M F, de Haas A, Etiendem N D, et al. 2013. Making hard choices: balancing indigenous communities livelihood and Cross River gorilla conservation in the Lebialem-Mone Forest landscape, Cameroon. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 15(3): 841–857.

Rodríguez-Meza J, Southgate D, González-Vega C. 2004. Rural poverty, household responses to shocks, and agricultural land use: panel re-sults for El Salvador. Environment and Development Economics, 9(2): 225–239.

Rudel T K, Coomes O T, Moran E, et al. 2005. Forest transitions: to-wards a global understanding of land use change. Global Environ-mental Change, 15(1): 23–31.

Salvati L, Zitti M. 2009. The environmental “risky” region: identifying land degradation processes through integration of socio-economic and ecological indicators in a multivariate regionalization model. Environmental Management, 44(5): 888–898.

State Council of the People’s Republic of China. 2011. Major func-tion-oriented zone planning of China. The State Council of the Peo-ple’s Republic of China, Beijing, China. [2011-06-08]. (in Chinese)

Van der Geest K, Vrieling A, Dietz T. 2010. Migration and environment in Ghana: a cross-district analysis of human mobility and vegetation dynamics. Environment and Urbanization, 22(1): 107–123.

Wackernagel M, Rees W E. 1996. Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. Gabriola Island: New Society Publish-ers, 59–88.

Wang C C, Yang Y S, Zhang Y Q. 2011. Economic development, rural livelihoods, and ecological restoration: evidence from China. Ambio, 40(1): 78–87.

Wang D S, Zheng H, Ouyang Z Y. 2013. Ecosystem services supply and consumption and their relationships with human well-being. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology, 24(6): 1747–1753. (in Chinese)

Wei X Y, Xia J X. 2012. Ecological compensation for large water pro-jects based on ecological footprint theory: a case study in China. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 13: 1338–1345.

WWF (World Wildlife Fund), GFN (Global Footprint Network), ZSL (Zoological Society of London). 2013a. Living planet report 2012: biodiversity, biocapacity and better choices. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland. 3779579969611/living_planet_report_2012.pdf.

WWF (World Wildlife Fund), IGSNRR (Institute of Geographic Sci-ences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sci-ences), GFN (Global Footprint Network), et al. 2013b. China eco-logical footprint report 2012: consumption, production and sustain-able development. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland. 83610.html.

Xiao J H, Chen S J, Yu Q D, et al. 2011. A study on ecological com-pensation standard for Zaoshi Water Conservancy Project based on the idea of ecological footprint. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 31(22): 6696–6707. (in Chinese)

Xu Z M, Zhang Z Q, Cheng G D. 2000. The calculation and analysis of ecological footprints of Gansu Province. Acta Geographic Sinica, 55(5): 607–616. (in Chinese)

Yan J Z, Wu Y Y, Zhang Y L. 2011. Adaptation strategies to pasture degradation: gap between government and local nomads in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 21(6): 1112–1122.

Ye J Z, Wang Y H, Long N. 2009. Farmer initiatives and livelihood diversification: from the collective to a market economy in Rural China. Journal of Agrarian Change, 9(2): 175–203.

Zhang J, Niu J M, Bao T, et al. 2014. Human induced dryland degrada-tion in Ordos Plateau, China, revealed by multilevel statistical mod-eling of normalized difference vegetation index and rainfall time-series. Journal of Arid Land, 6(2): 219–229.

Zhang L P, Zhang Y L, Yan J Z, et al. 2008. Livelihood diversification and cropland use pattern in agro-pastoral mountainous region of eastern Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 18(4): 499–509.

Zhang Y B, Wang M J, Li J Q, et al. 2009. The impact of ecological compensation on farmers’ ecological footprint: an empirical study on Giant Panda habitat. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 29(7): 3569–3575. (in Chinese)

Zhao X Y, Mao X W. 2013. Comparison environmental impact of the peasant household in han, zang and hui nationality region: case of Zhangye, Gannan and Linxia in Gansu Province. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 33(17): 5397–5406. (in Chinese)

Zhen L, Liu X L, Wei Y J, et al. 2011. Consumption of ecosystem ser-vices: a conceptual framework and case study in Jinghe Watershed. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2(4): 298–306.

Zhou Z Y, Sumner D A, Lee H. 2001. Part-time farming trends in China: a comparison with the Japanese and Korean experience. Compara-tive Economic Studies, 43(3): 99–132.
[1] WANG Jincheng, JING Mingbo, ZHANG Wei, ZHANG Gaosen, ZHANG Binglin, LIU Guangxiu, CHEN Tuo, ZHAO Zhiguang. Assessment of organic compost and biochar in promoting phytoremediation of crude-oil contaminated soil using Calendula officinalis in the Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(6): 612-628.
[2] ZHANG Bingchang, ZHANG Yongqing, ZHOU Xiaobing, LI Xiangzhen, ZHANG Yuanming. Snowpack shifts cyanobacterial community in biological soil crusts[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(3): 239-256.
[3] HE Mingzhu, JI Xibin, BU Dongsheng, ZHI Jinhu. Cultivation effects on soil texture and fertility in an arid desert region of northwestern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(4): 701-715.
[4] XIANG Yanling, WANG Zhongke, LYU Xinhua, HE Yaling, LI Yuxia, ZHUANG Li, ZHAO Wenqin. Effects of rodent-induced disturbance on eco-physiological traits of Haloxylon ammodendron in the Gurbantunggut Desert, Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(3): 508-521.
[5] Yonggang LI, Xiaobing ZHOU, Yuanming ZHANG. Shrub modulates the stoichiometry of moss and soil in desert ecosystems, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(4): 579-594.
[6] Wen SHANG, Yuqiang LI, Xueyong ZHAO, Tonghui ZHANG, Quanlin MA, Jinnian TANG, Jing FENG, Na SU. Effects of Caragana microphylla plantations on organic carbon sequestration in total and labile soil organic carbon fractions in the Horqin Sandy Land, northern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(5): 688-700.
[7] BingChang ZHANG, XiaoBing ZHOU, YuanMing ZHANG. Responses of microbial activities and soil physical-chemical properties to the successional process of biological soil crusts in the Gurbantunggut Desert, Xinjiang[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(1): 101-109.
[8] Yang QIU, ZhongKui XIE, YaJun WANG, Sukhdev S MALHI, JiLong REN. Long-term effects of gravel―sand mulch on soil orga¬nic carbon and nitrogen in the Loess Plateau of northwestern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(1): 46-53.
[9] YanMin ZHAO, QingKe ZHU, Ping LI, LeiLei ZHAO, LuLu WANG, XueLiang ZHENG, Huan MA. Effects of artificially cultivated biological soil crusts on soil nutrients and biological activities in the Loess Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2014, 6(6): 742-752.
[10] ZhengJun GUAN, Qian LUO, Xi CHEN, XianWei FENG, ZhiXi TANG, Wei WEI, YuanRun ZHENG. Saline soil enzyme activities of four plant communities in Sangong River basin of Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2014, 6(2): 164-173.
[11] Yan JIAO, Zhu XU, JiaoHong ZHAO, WenZhu YANG. Changes in soil carbon stocks and related soil properties along a 50-year grassland-to-cropland conversion chronosequence in an agro-pastoral ecotone of Inner Mongolia, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2012, 4(4): 420-430.
[12] YuanMing ZHANG, Nan WU, BingChang ZHANG, Jing ZHANG. Species composition, distribution patterns and ecological functions of biological soil crusts in the Gurbantunggut Desert[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2010, 2(3): 180-189.