A recent study reveals that forests in China are on the rise thanks to an innovative new program.
Researchers from Michigan State University have announced that a national forest conservation program implemented by the Chinese government at the end of the 20th century has been a huge success. According to a report from CS Monitor, the program, which was implemented in 1998, has resulted in a full comeback of Chinese forests, which faced huge pressure from logging and clear-cutting.
The research team used satellite imaging to monitor where and by how much Chinese tree cover was changing. Over the ten years from 2000 to 2010, the nation enjoyed a net gain in forest cover thanks to the success of the program.
The study was published in the journal Science Advances, and reveals that over the course of the decade the country saw a significant recovery in roughly 1.6 percent of forests. Only 0.38 percent of the country’s forests lost tree cover in the same time.
According the study’s lead author Andrés Viña from Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, “Before there was widespread deforestation. Now that has stopped and there is a net gain in forest cover.”
Forests provide a number of important ecosystem services, from sequestering carbon from the atmosphere to harboring biodiversity and providing a source of wood for fuel and building (providing it was harvested sustainably). While China has seen success with its forest conservation program, the rest of the world hasn’t fared so well. Researchers believe that the world has lost nearly 319 million acres of forest over the last quarter of a century.
The Natural Forest Conservation Program targeted specific regions that were particularly sensitive to logging, clear-cutting, and other environmental damage as a result. The program placed bans on logging in natural forests, encouraging companies to seek timber from other sources.
Timber harvests in china were reduced from 32 million cubic meters in 1997 to 23 million cubic meters in 1999, and the reductions have continued to this day.
A press release from Michigan State University describing the details of the study can be found here.