Analysis of forty years long changes in coastal land use and land cover of the Yellow Sea: The gains or losses in ecosystem services
The drastic land cover change and its impacts in the Yellow Sea have long been significant issues in terms of coastal vulnerabilities, but holistic data analysis is limited. The present study first reports 40 years long geographical changes of the Yellow Sea coasts including all three neighboring countries of China, North Korea, and South Korea. We delineated tidal flats by analysis of Landsat series satellite imageries (662 scenes) between 1981 and 2016. A total area of the Yellow Sea tidal flats has been considerably reducing for the past 36 years, from ∼10,500 km2 (1980s) to ∼6700 km2(2010s), say ∼1% annual loss. A majority loss of tidal flats was mainly due to the grand reclamations that conducted in almost entire coast of the Yellow Sea, particularly concentrated in the 1990s-2000s. Coastal reclaimed area during the past four decades reached ∼9700 km2, including ongoing and planned projects, which corresponds to over half the area of precedent natural tidal flats of the Yellow Sea. The potential carbon stocks in the eight representative regions with large scale reclamation indicated significant loss in carbon sink capacity in the South Korea's coast (∼99%), while evidenced a lesser loss from the China's coast (∼31%). It was noteworthy that the progradation of tidal flats after the reclamation in China's coast significantly reduced the loss of carbon sequestration. According to the ecosystem services valuation for the Yellow Sea, a total loss was estimated as ∼8 billion USD yr−1 with relatively high proportional loss (up to 25%) of climate regulating services (viz., carbon sequestration). Overall, huge losses in ecosystem services being provided by the Yellow Sea natural tidal flats need immediate action to prevent or at least alleviate accelerating ecological deteriorations. Finally, future conservative policy direction on coastal wetlands management has been proposed towards enhancement of marine ecosystem services.