Effects of the "Conversion of Cropland to Forest and Grassland Program" on the water budget of the Jinghe River catchment in China

J Environ Qual. 2011 Nov-Dec;40(6):1745-55. doi: 10.2134/jeq2010.0263.


In 1999 China adopted the "Conversion of Cropland to Forest and Grassland Program" (CCFGP), a nationwide ecological recovery program, to minimize wide-scale soil erosion and vegetation degradation in China, as well as to improve water budgeting results. In the 10 yr since implementation, the CCFGP has resulted in the recovery and reforestation of >100,000 km of cropland and bare land, though the quantitative effect of this program on catchment water budget is not entirely clear. Therefore, we used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool to evaluate and quantify the effects of the CCFGP on the water budget of the Jinghe River catchment, a tributary of the Yellow River covering the central region of the Loess Plateau. Our results indicated that precipitation had dropped by 12.0% from the 1970s (611.6 mm) to the 2000s (538 mm) and that there was a corresponding 25.2% decrease in humidity index from 0.48 to 0.36. Before the CCFGP's implementation, forest and grassland had been decreasing, while bare land, cropland, and shrub land had been increasing. After the implementation of the CCFGP, the opposite trend was observed. Moreover, streamflow increased by about 15 and 20% for the upstream and middle stream subbasins, respectively, while soil water content also showed an obvious increase. Over the same period, evapotranspiration decreased by 5.2 and 13.5 mm and runoff decreased by 37.5 and 38.6% in the two subbasins. The same trends were obtained in the downstream subbasin, where changes were even greater. As a result of the reduced runoff and evapotranspiration, utilization of water resources was more efficient and ecological environment was improved under the CCFGP policy. Our results indicate the CCFGP resulted in a favorable ecological impact and should therefore be maintained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • China
  • Ecosystem*
  • Human Activities
  • Rain
  • Rivers
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Time Factors
  • Trees*
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Supply


  • Soil
  • Water