Beijing to plant 167 square km of new forests

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Beijing announced its major afforestation project recently. The city aims to grow 250,000 mu (about 167 square kilometers) of new forests in 2019. One prominent feature of the project is the construction of large areas of green space in the suburbs. Biodiversity is also a key indicator in the project, and large wetlands are being planned as primitive-forest-like nature reserves where human activities are restricted.

According to an official from the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau, the planting area of 230,000 mu is also part of the new round of "million mu greening project." The bureau will begin dual-fronted efforts with afforestation on the one hand and upgrading other landscapes on the other hand, such as the green corridors along the South Fifth and Sixth Ring Roads, the Beijing-Taipei Expressway, and the Xingyan Expressway and landscapes in some country parks.

To implement greening projects outlined by a series of development plans, Beijing will continue the construction of the "green necklace" project and build green areas of 10,000 mu in 11 parks and gardens.

For northern Beijing's Tiantongyuan-Huilongguan area, the bureau plans to build two parks to improve the area's ecological underdevelopment. It has also planned green landscapes along the key roads surrounding the Beijing new airport and the Winter Olympic venues.

A large-scale greening project will also start in the suburbs. It includes the construction of city parks of over 10,000 mu as well as eight large-scale city forests in Chaoyang, Changping, Daxing and Tongzhou districts.

Compared with previous years, the afforestation project this year puts more emphasis on building an ecosystem with integrity, connectivity, and biodiversity. "In the past, the construction of landscapes put human needs on the priority list," a bureau official said. "Now we will also consider the needs of animals and intend to add vitality to the forest and build a more harmonious ecosystem."

The development of biodiversity is reflected in many aspects, including the selection of plant species, the grouping of plants, and the construction of terrain. For instance, the types and numbers of food source and honey plants such as hawthorn trees, cherry-apple trees, mulberries, and chaste trees will be increased. Shrubs and ground covers will be planted in the forest to provide shelters and habitats for small animals, and water harvesting pits are also planned for small animals.

Starting this year, Beijing will also set up restricted areas in large wetlands to provide undisturbed space for big and small wild animals like squirrels, hares, hedgehogs, and owls. The core area of the "East Green Star" located in the city's sub-center will be one of the pilots. Wenyuhe Park in Chaoyang district will also set up a similar restricted area to reduce human disturbance and create a "primitive forest" in the city.

According to the plan, 90 percent of the demolition and relocation work for the planned afforestation areas will be completed by the end of March. The afforestation construction will begin late March, with a plan to complete 60 percent of the work by the end of June.

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