Zhejiang counts ‘gross ecosystem product’ of nature reserve

A nature reserve in Zhejiang province has had its gross ecosystem product (GEP) valued at RMB 311 million (USD 43 million), China Environment News reports.

GEP summarises the value of the contributions of nature to economic activity; it is a natural realm version of GDP. 

The GEP of Chengtian Radon Spring Nature Reserve was calculated based on 13 indicators, including: agricultural and forestry products, carbon sequestration, water purification, and ecotourism potential, added China Environment News.

This is Zhejiang’s first nature reserve to have its GEP calculated. After China launched a national standard for GEP accounting in September 2020, Zhejiang was the first province to issue a local standard. It encompasses three main components: products directly supplied by the ecosystem like food and materials, ecosystem services regulating climate, water and soil, and cultural services such as tourism. 

A year later, in Zhejiang’s Deqing county, GEP directly influenced development choice. Project A was found to be more eco-friendly than Project B, and was thus green-lighted.

Research published in 2023 showed that, based on differing availability of data, at least 15 local governments have issued guidelines on GEP accounting, and around 200 pilot projects are happening across the country.

Governments use GEP to evaluate administration, the research says. For instance, city-level authorities assess county-level administrators who oversee areas that provide ecosystem services. Some regional governments have stipulated which departments are responsible for enhancing GEP. Meanwhile, counties could use GEP, along with GDP, as a performance measure. They could even use it for auditing officials leaving their positions, according to the research.

Challenges, both technical and institutional, remain at this early stage. The great differences between ecosystems makes choosing indicators challenging. Also, data from different agencies may not align and therefore be hard to compare, or they might be reluctant to share information, the research added.

Read China Dialogue’s report on the Dasgupta review of the economics of biodiversity.