The depletion of resource reserves will cause stagnation of socio-economic development in resource-based cities. The formation of new sources of economic growth in resource-depleted cities can profoundly change the structure of human activities and affect the environment. The Chinese government has established a list of resource-depleted cities in three batches since 2008 to support these cities in finding new sources of economic growth. The article analyzes the impact of the regeneration process of resource-based cities on ecosystem quality. The paper constructs an inter-city panel dataset covering 281 cities from 2003 to 2018. The article valued the habitat quality of Chinese cities. Habitat quality index and normalized vegetation index were used to measure the long-term and short-term ecological impacts of economic recovery in resource-based cities. Using a difference-in-difference technique, the results show that the central government's economic support for resource-based cities significantly improves the condition of urban ecosystems. However, the long-term ecological effects are still smaller than the short-term changes in ecosystems. The transmission path of support policies affecting the ecological quality of cities depends on the shift in industrial structure and economic scale at the provincial level. In addition, urban-rural differences, regional distribution, and resource endowment also significantly affect the ecological effects of supportive policies.
•Economic recovery in resource-depleted cities changes the economic structure and affects the urban ecosystem.
•Economic recovery can improve the environmental quality of resource-depleted cities.
•The variability of resource endowments affects environmental quality during the economic recovery process in cities.
•The environmental benefits of economic recovery tend to decay over time.
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