Conservation, Green, Sustainability

China’s Forests Are Shrinking Despite Reforestation Efforts

China’s forests are facing a crisis as the economy continues to grow and consumes wood for construction and manufacturing. Despite reforestation programs China continues to import wood from other countries, which does solve problems related to wood use and carbon sequestration, it just moves them to another country.
China’s forests are facing a crisis as the economy continues to grow and consumes wood for construction and manufacturing. Despite reforestation programs China continues to import wood from other countries, which does solve problems related to wood use and carbon sequestration, it just moves them to another country. Photo: Province of British Columbia | FlickrCC.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, China has been engaged in a massive reforestation project. It is a large part of the government’s plan to develop clean energy sources and reduce their carbon footprint.

The reforestation project has taken on several forms, from banning logging to replanting trees. According to researchers at Michigan State University, those efforts have been paying off.

Since the program’s inception, 1.6% of China’s territory has seen a significant gain in tree growth. That may not sound like a lot, but remember that China is a huge country, and that 1.6% amounts to almost 61,000 square miles, which is bigger than the state of Georgia.

Compare that success to the ongoing loss and it’s revealed a falling short of the promised results. Nearly .38% of their territory, about 14,400 square miles, has experienced significant loss, so it’s not a total gain. While these efforts are good for China, that country is still using a lot of lumber, and they’re importing and exporting it at about the same rate as before.

Other countries like Vietnam or Indonesia are shouldering some of that burden, cutting their own forests in order to sell wood to China. This essentially means that the problems of forest loss, namely a drop in biological diversity and in carbon sequestration, are happening elsewhere.

China hasn’t ceased cutting down trees, and they’re still exporting lumber and wood products, but that wood is simply coming from other parts of the country, which are hopefully well managed and grown for that specific purpose.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction. Maybe if other countries can adopt some of the Chinese reforestation practices, we can make some more significant gains around the world. The problem remains though, of how to manage lumber and meet needs for wood, without damaging the environment.

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