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From basic raw material goods to cultural and environmental services: the Chinese bamboo sophistication path

Manuel Ruiz Pérez, Department of Ecology, Autonomous University of Madrid
Lucas Gutierrez Rodriguez, Department of Ecology, Autonomous University of Madrid; Center for International Forestry Research, Indonesia
Xiaosheng Yang, Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, China
Jinzhong Xie, Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, China
Maoyi Fu, Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry, Chinese Academy of Forestry, China


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Bamboo has deep cultural and economic roots in China, the country with the largest bamboo resources in the world. Over the last three decades bamboo has evolved from a supply of raw material for basic goods into the material base of an increasingly diversified array of products and, more recently, into a potentially important source of cultural and environmental services. Based on a general literature review and the lessons learned from detailed case studies in different regions of China, we explored the changing roles of bamboo, and its effects on local economies and farmers’ livelihood strategies. As the country develops and new economic activities continue to appear, bamboo production has shifted from a superior income-generating opportunity that largely benefited the better-off to a less attractive option left for those who have no other choice. The nature of the work has also changed, from families working directly on their bamboo plots to an emphasis on hired labor, with prosperous bamboo owners devoting most of their time to more lucrative activities. A similar process can be observed in bamboo processing in counties where previous industrial structures hinged around raw material harvests, but which have now entered into other secondary and tertiary industry activities. At the same time, bamboo has attracted new opportunities as a source of cultural, aesthetic, and leisure-related activities, as well as some potentially important climatic, watershed, and biodiversity functions. We analyze the complementarity between goods and services provided by bamboo and discuss some research issues and future trends that may help in overcoming these conflicts.

Key words

bamboo culture; bamboo economy; bamboo farmers; bamboo forests; bamboo industry; bamboo plantations; bamboo tourism; China; cultural services; economic services; forestry; rural development; rural livelihoods

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087