China has become a world leader in carbon-related climate and ecological research, scientists said on Tuesday, adding that recent discoveries will help other countries effectively mitigate carbon emissions and tackle climate change on a greater scale.
Key discoveries include directly proving that large-scale ecological restoration projects can improve an ecosystem's ability to absorb carbon gas and slow rates of climate warming on a national scale, according to findings published on Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international science journal.
Chinese scientists were the first to prove on a national scale that increasing biodiversity can improve ecosystems' productivity and increase the amount of carbon gas their soil can store, the journal said.
They were also the first to find that ecosystem productivity is positively correlated with vegetation's nutrient reserves on a national scale.
The research was done on China's four major terrestrial ecosystems£forest, grassland, shrub land and farmland£and samples were collected throughout China over a five-year period, said Fang Jingyun, academic director of the Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was the leading scientist behind the project.
More than 350 scientists collected data from around 600,000 samples taken from more than 17,000 plots of land, making it the largest field survey ecological project in the world, Fang said.
"It is the first time for an Asian country to feature research findings of this magnitude in the PNAS," he said.
"This shows that China has become a world leader in fields related to the carbon cycle, global climate change and ecology."
The project has expanded the academic scope of ecological science, created invaluable data for more accurate environmenÉê°®t evaluation and bolstered China's influence in negotiating climate-related topics on the world stage, he said.
The project also showcased China's determination and sense of responsibility in combating climate change "by thoroughly and systematically examining its own carbon situation", Fang said.
"Our findings have opened new insights into improving ecological carbon mitigation through human efforts. They will help China and other countries that are experiencing similar ecological challenges to be more green and beautiful."
China's special features are "of great importance both scientifically and societally", said Inder Verma, an academician of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States.
"It is a particularly opportune moment to examine the feasibility of climate change mitigation in the country and how this fits into a broader context of contemporary global change factors that are strongly influencing China's ecosystems," he said.
Susan Trumbore, a PNAS editor, said the Chinese papers have made "a novel contribution by demonstrating a direct link between policy and outcomes for soil carbon in agricultural soils".