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China's Forest Resources Face Four Challenges

According to the latest forestry resources survey conducted by the State Forestry Administration, the forest coverage rate in China has increased from 8.6 percent in the early 1950s to the current 16.55 percent and its forest storage amount has increased from 10.8 billion to 11.27 billion cubic meters.


However, the country’s forest development is still facing four major challenges – deficiency in total amount, unbalanced structures, contradiction between demand and supply, and severe devastation.


Not only the total amount of forest resources in China is deficient, the function of forest ecology has not been given full play either. Only 159 million hectares of land out of 263 million hectares designated for forestry are covered by trees, accounting for 60.37 percent; storing of standing forests per hectare is only 78.06 cubic meters on average, and for artificial forests, the figure stands at just 34.76 cubic meters; canopy density of standing forests is 0.54 on average, of which some 20 percent standing forests has a canopy density of 0.2-0.3. All of the above statistics reflect that China’s forests have not yet formed a stable eco-system, posing a difficulty for terrestrial eco-system to function.


In addition, the forest structures, involving distribution, age of stand, categories, and varieties, are seriously unbalanced. Forest coverage rate of 11 provinces in eastern China’s coastal area is 26.59 percent, while the figure in western China’s 11 provinces is 9.06 percent, of which, it is only 3.34 percent in the five northwestern provinces; in respect to age of stand, 71.1 percent of standing forests is young and middle-aged; compared with timber forests, the proportion of protective forests is quite small, which has limited the forest industry’s diversified benefits; and the tree varieties are monotonous, with masson pines, China firs, and poplars accounting for about 58.8 percent of the national artificial forests.


Increasing social demands put forestry management and administration under great pressure. On one hand, the contradiction between supply and demand of forest products becomes more and more serious, with natural supply provided by the current forest recourses satisfying only 40 percent of actual demand; on the other hand, the demand for more diversified benefits out of forests is increasing too, along with the development of society, economy and environmental protection.


The situation of forest resources devastation is still severe. In 2002, relevant forestry department carried out nationwide inspection tours to check the timber-cutting quota in 34 counties and to examine the requisition of forestlands in 202 counties. The results showed that 17.6 percent of the inspected units conducted exceeding cuts of timbers and 12.5 percent had illegal requisition of forestlands; every year, 562,000 hectares of forestlands were reversed to non-forestlands on average. Meanwhile, non-licensed timber transportation and illegal trade and production of timber form another threat to China’s forest resources.


(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, October 23, 2003)

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