Measuring livelihood dependence and vulnerability to ecosystem service change in the Miyun Watershed
The links between land use, ecosystem services and human well being have been hypothesized at least since seminal work in the 1990s. The most fundamental decision-making unit at which these links are connected is the household. Yet documentation of how these relationships unfold at the household level remains sparse. Our work draws from two strands of related, but different literature. First, research on "environmental dependence" focuses on extraction of resources from the local landscape, but does not take into account spatial dependencies on nearby but non-local landscapes. For example, this literature does not typically take into account ecosystem services that support agricultural production. Second, the now vast literature on valuation of ecosystem services has helped illuminate total social value of some ecosystem services, but little work has looked at how ecosystem service dependencies may vary over space and to different socioeconomic groups. Addressing these issue required a detailed understanding of ecosystem structure and function, and also considerable skill in understanding rural livelihood and non-market valuation techniques. Multidisciplinary teams are best suited to address these questions. Using household data from over 700 households from 6 villages in Beijing and neighboring Hebei province, which display significant heterogeneity in livelihood types, we characterize the variation in livelihood dependency on ecosystem services.
Our study focuses on the ecosystem service benefits (as opposed to intermediate services) from which households derive utility, disaggregates these benefits to various beneficiary groups, recognizes the need for locally-specific marginal valuation, and relates these to local land uses and market activities. A primary contribution of this work is to demonstrate a simple accounting method to help determine how rural household livelihood depends on the surrounding landscape. Our results indicate substantial variation in dependency on different types of services and varying dependencies by beneficiary grouping. Preliminary results indicate statistically significant relationships between household-level dependency and natural resources access, market integration, infrastructure, and education. Our result indicate land use planning, ecosystem conservation and regional development strategies should take into account the variation in dependency of different beneficiary groups on different types of services. This is especially important in the context of poverty alleviation and rural livelihood stabilization.