Cash crops have kept expanding at an accelerating rate across the globe during the last decades. It therefore requires elaborate efforts to examine the socioeconomic and ecological consequences of cash crop cultivation. With a case of the Hangzhou region in subtropical China, this paper investigated the dynamic patterns of four cash crop types (tea, fruit, mulberry and nursery) at town level by using aerial photos; and then quantified the subsequent socioeconomic and ecological consequences using spatial regression. In particular, the socioeconomic impacts were examined based on a set of socioeconomic indicators and the ecological consequences were described by ecosystem service values (ESV) and landscape pattern changes. Results indicated that the economic benefits of cash crop cultivation were evident, including raising household income, boosting rural economy, increasing fiscal revenues, and attracting foreign investment. Cash crop cultivation generally yielded positive social impacts (welfare promotion, infrastructure improvement and job creation), but the impacts also varied with crop types. Cash crop cultivation not only increased landscape fragmentation, isolation and irregularity, but also decreased the dominance, connectivity and aggregation of forest and farmland. Specifically, forest was more subjected to tea and fruit expansion, while farmland was more vulnerable to mulberry and nursery expansion. A significant negative relationship was identified between ESV changes and cash crop expansion. It implied that cash crop cultivation would impair the capacity of ecosystems to deliver services. Our study demonstrated an applicable framework to identify the essential indicators for land use policy makers to monitor the socioeconomic and ecological consequences of cash crop cultivation.
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Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.
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