China could face worse forest fires and be more severely
affected by wood-destroying pests this year because of global
warming, a senior forestry official said today.
The government would buy dedicated fire-fighting helicopters for
the first time to deal with the increased threat, said State
Forestry Administration spokesman Cao Qingyao, adding that some
officials still did not take the problem seriously enough, Reuters
"International weather experts predict that because of the
double effect of global warming and El Nino, 2007 will be the
warmest year ever and the forest fire prevention situation will be
extremely serious," Cao said during a news conference.
El Nino, which occurs about every two to seven years, is caused
by the warming of Pacific waters off South America and can disrupt
normal weather patterns around the world, leading to drought in
some areas and heavy rain in others.
China had a successful year fighting forest fires in 2006, with
a drop of more than a third in damaged woodlands, though 41 people
died, Cao said.
Still, parts of southwestern China endured their worst drought
in half a century last year and one fire in Yunnan province raged
for 10 days.
With average temperatures rising and rainfall dropping, the
problem of protecting China's 175 million hectares of forests -- an
area the size of Libya -- is a large one.
"The weather is getting hotter, the area of forested land is
expanding and people are traveling around China more and more, so
it's getting that much harder to prevent forest fires," Cao
"We hope that improving early detection can help us."
Yet that was being hindered by an attitude problem among some
government official at the grassroots, Cao said, particularly as
most forest fires in China were caused by humans.
"Some local governments do not have enough awareness of how to
prevent forest fires, and do not have a proper system of
responsibility," he said, without elaborating. "Their leadership
does not think this issue is important enough."
Another problem facing China's vast forests -- which cover huge
tracks of land in the frigid northeast near Russia and the tropical
southwest -- is the spread of disease and pests such as the
American white moth and the pinewood nematode.
Infestation rates rose almost a quarter last year, to affect
10.7 million hectares of woods.
"2006 was a fairly serious year for the timber industry for the
incidence of harmful organisms," Cao said, blaming the rise on
"The rise in disease is also related to global warming," he
(Shanghai Daily January 11, 2007)