Forest ecosystem services can provide both direct and indirect economic benefits. In this case study, at county-level, we estimated the annual economic value of some ecosystem services by forest ecosystems in the Xingshan County of Hubei Province of China, using both simulation models and geographic information system (GIS) that helps to analyze the effect of ecological factors (vegetation, soil and slope) on ecosystem functions. Xingshan County is rich in forest resources, covering 50.64% of total land area in the county. In this study, we referred to ecosystem goods and services together as ecosystem services. The ecosystem goods include timber, other forest products and forest tour, and produce a direct economic value about 54.23 million RMB in 1997 (RMB: Chinese Currency, 8.3 RMB = US$1). The ecosystem services assessed relate to three aspects: water conservation, soil conservation and gas regulation. Water conservation includes hydrological flow regulation, and water retention and storage. Soil conservation relates to the reduction of land disuse, prevention of silt accretion, decrease of soil deposit, and protection of soil fertility. Gas regulation is by both carbon fixation and oxygen supply. These services provide an indirect economic value of 528.73 million RMB per year based on our estimation. Thus, the total economic value of forest ecosystem services in Xingshan County is estimated to be 582.96 million RMB per year, being a part of actual ecosystem services. In addition, we analyzed the spatial distribution of forest capital stock in the county based on the economic values of forest ecosystem service. Our work can contribute to the conservation of the forest ecosystems and effective use of the ecosystem services. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.
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