China’s comprehensive forest restoration programme is bearing fruit, according to a study by Michigan State University. The forests, much of which had been levelled by decades of logging, are recovering, wonderful news and an inspiration to conservationists all over the planet.
No nation operates in a vacuum
In China, like everywhere else, forested areas are essential for soil and water conservation as well as regulating the climate. And because no nation acts in a vacuum, the good news has global consequences.
China kicked off its massive forest conservation initiative at the turn of the century. Their Natural Forest Conservation Program bans logging and, vitally, compensates residents for the loss of illegal timber harvesting in some areas.
The University team combined the NASA Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer’s annual Vegetation Continuous Fields tree cover product with high resolution images from Google Earth to establish the status of the forests, revealing the good news.
The numbers are looking good
Apparently around 1.6% of China’s forests, a whopping 61,000 square miles, have gained ‘significant’ tree cover, while just 14,400 square miles of forest saw a significant loss in tree cover. The programme is working effectively and contributing to carbon sequestration, which in turn is helping mitigate climate change.
A game of ‘whack-a-mole’?
On the downside, countries like Madagascar, Vietnam and Indonesia are razing their forests to the ground and exporting vast amounts of timber to China, so there’s a Catch 22. The need for timber isn’t a Chinese issue, it’s a world issue, and one that needs to be resolved. As one University commentator said “We are all part of the problem one way or another. We all buy products from China, and China has not changed their imports and exports of wood at all. What has changed is where timber is coming from”
Read more about ways to protect rainforests at The Rainforest Foundation.