Beijing targets 45 percent urban forest cover

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Beijing recently approved a new plan for its afforestation efforts, setting the targets of 1 million mu (66,667 hectares) of new forests, 45 percent urban forest coverage, and 32 percent forest coverage in the plain areas by 2022. 

According to the plan, Beijing will adhere to the principle of ecological priority, protect biodiversity, and improve the quality of the ecosystem. In addition, the plan puts forward for the first time the idea of building "boundless forests," which means to achieve an organic integration of forests, mountains, water, cities, and fields.

Li Wei, a senior engineer from the Planning and Development Department of Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau, said the plan is supposed to fully coordinate with the green space pattern proposed in the new edition of Beijing's general urban planning, which says the city will construct a green space layout with "one screen, three rings, five belts, nine wedges, many corridors, and many areas."

Among them, the "screen" refers to the shallow mountain area which serves as an ecological barrier; the "three rings" refer to the city park ring in the inner circle, the suburban park ring in the middle, and the wetland park ring in the outer circle; the "five belts" are the five waterfront spaces along Yongding River, Chaobai River, Beiyun River, Juma River, and Ju River; the "nine wedges" mean the nine wedge-shaped green spaces; the "many corridors" are a number of important ecological corridors; and finally the "many areas" refer to the key areas planned for urban development and the construction of forest wetlands. Also, by expanding the size of green ecological spaces in the city, Beijing's new general urban planning is designed to bring blue skies and white clouds to its residents and therefore largely enhance their sense of happiness.

"Although in recent years remarkable achievements have been made in afforestation and greening in Beijing, there are still some problems," Li said. "For example, the total amount of forest is still insufficient, and the current spatial pattern needs to be improved in quality, completeness and connectivity."

The engineer further explained that the newly released afforestation plan is problem-oriented: On the one hand, it focuses on solving the problem of connectivity between forests and green spaces, enhancing the ecological function of the forest system, and improving biodiversity. On the other hand, it speeds up the greening of urban core areas through the construction of green parks that are located near residential communities.

The afforestation plan has adopted the strategy of "connecting small pieces into large areas, eliminating weak spots, linking corridors, and organizing networks around villages and towns." According to the plan, afforestation projects will be carried out in 255 key areas, and by linking ecological corridors and enabling wild animals to migrate freely, the city will have the chance to establish a complete ecosystem and improve biodiversity.

The afforestation plan also puts forward a concept of "boundless forests and a livable city," which means organically integrating forests with mountains, water, cities, and fields, and to gradually build a harmonious and beautiful living environment through the comprehensive treatment of the ecosystem. By drawing lessons and experience both at home and from abroad, the afforestation plan raises a mode of "forest plus," which means it will strive to create a cooperative design between afforestation and mountain, water, field, lake, garden, village and so on, so that the many elements can give full play of their respective functions, and combining to generate ecological benefits to the maximum.

The new round of 1 million mu afforestation work will cover a wide range of areas, including plains, shallow mountains, central urban areas, and new city areas. To provide different ecological functions, the afforestation plan divides afforestation plots into four types: ecological conservation, landscape recreation, forest and wetland compound, and ecological corridor. The plan also includes specific construction requirements and guidelines, covering functional construction, vegetation selection, flood control, and other fields.

The afforestation plan makes clear of its implementation target: "to complete the construction of the main body in four years and to complete the whole task in five years." Beijing completed a total of 235,000 mu (15,667 hectares) of afforestation and planted 10.12 million trees last year.

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