Unraveling trade-offs among reforestation, urbanization, and food security in the South China Karst region: how how can a hinterland province achieve SDGs?

Sijing Qiu, Jian Peng*, Timothy A. Quine, Sophie M. Green, Hongyan Liu, Yanxu Liu, Iain P. Hartley, Jeroen Meersmans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Whether the world can achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) largely depends on the ability of less-developed areas to cope with multiple socio-economic changes. The challenges that hinterland areas would face during the realization of SDGs has not yet received enough attentions. In this study, a context-based assessment of regional food balances was conducted, considering key challenges related to socio-economic development as well as land use competition under the framework of the shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) and the implementation of reforestation. We examined one of the poorest hinterland provinces in China as a case study, projecting its food deficit and exploring the potential threats to and opportunities for SDG realization by 2030, including population growth, urbanization, urban land expansion and reforestation. The projections revealed a crop deficit of 4.9–9.8 million tonnes, corresponding to the food demands of 10.2–20.6 million people. Approximately 76%–81% of this deficit was expected to be caused by increased food demand, rather than reforestation policies. Therefore, for this less-developed area with low agricultural productivity and large groups of vulnerable people, population growth and urbanization are likely to result in demands for food that cannot be met locally. In addition, large-scale reforestation projects, while enhancing a number of key ecosystem services, will increase the local food deficit by promoting the abandonment of cropland. This will result in greater reliance on food imports, with potential impacts on SDG realization in other regions. These findings highlight the need for integrated governance across multiple scales to ensure hinterland sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022EF002867
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant 41571130044) and the National Environmental Research Council of the UK (NERC Newton—SPECTRA, Grant NE/N007603/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Earth's Future published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Geophysical Union.


  • food security
  • reforestation impacts
  • shared socioeconomic pathways
  • sustainable development
  • urbanization impacts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Unraveling trade-offs among reforestation, urbanization, and food security in the South China Karst region: how how can a hinterland province achieve SDGs?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this