Investigation of a traditional reed economy (Phragmites australis) under threat: pulp and paper market, values and netchain at Wuliangsuhai Lake, Inner Mongolia, China
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Common Reed (Phragmites australis) is a wetland plant which is distributed worldwide, has a high biomass production, and provides important ecosystem services. In many developing and emerging countries it is an easily available and cheap raw material for diverse utilization, which may contribute significantly to employment and income generation for the local population. This case study investigates the reed utilization for pulp and paper production at the eutrophic Wuliangsuhai Lake, Inner Mongolia, China. We analysed the fluxes of materials and money along the supply chain (reed harvesting, processing and supply to final users, i.e. paper mills) as well as the division of work and costs at each production layer (network), based on the Netchain theory. The results make evident the importance of the paper industry and reed harvesting for local livelihood. They further reveal that the reed economy at Wuliangsuhai Lake is threatened by rising environmental standards for paper mills, change of market conditions and dependency on only two customers. Increasing revenues by finding new consumers or/and products, come to long-term contracts and improving harvesting efficiency are presented as ways to convert these threats into new opportunities.
First online: 21 September 2015