Ecological function zoning involves the spatial delineation of ecological functions based on the physical environment and ecosystem service functions, as well as the demands of eco-environmental protection and socio-economic development of the area according to the theory of ecological function regionalization. In this context, we defined the boundary of Poyang Lake wetland using geographic information system (GIS) technology based on an analysis of hydrological characteristics. The wetland area was determined as 5,186 km2. The characteristics of the natural environment and ecosystem service functions of Poyang Lake wetland were also appraised, with five ecological function areas classified; namely, ‘vitally important’, ‘highly important’, ‘important’, ‘slightly important’, and ‘restored’ zones. The spatial distribution and amounts of each zone were established. The areas of each zone were found to be: 276; 683; 1,164; 2,158; and 890 km2 respectively.

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