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Is China on track in forest recovery? Look again at the finer details

Here are some reasons why Jianchu Xu and other scientists from the Worldagroforestry Center (ICRAF) and ASB Partnership for the Tropical Forest Margins are not celebrating yet the news that China is making a turnaround on forest loss:

-     Majority of the new forest cover is from regenerated natural forest and monoculture plantations of non-native trees - Plantations generate less leaf litter and other organic inputs than native forests, so soil fauna and flora decrease, and groundwater depletion can be exacerbated by deep-rooted non-native trees that use more water than native species.

-     Exotic tree species are being planted in arid and semi-arid conditions, where perennial grasses with their extensive root systems would be better protectors of topsoil.

-     Tree crops such as fruit trees, rubber and eucalyptus, account for the new forest cover and not recovery of natural forest. The change threatens ecosystem services, particularly watershed protection and biodiversity conservation.

In a commentary published in Naturenews, Jianchu Xu recommends that decision makers focus on the various meanings of 'forest' and the trade-offs each type entails. Natural recovery is still the best way to restore damaged forests, but restoration requires targeted involvement using the best science. “Afforestation can restore ecosystem function only if the right species are planted in the right place,” he says. As countries take stock during the international year of forests, Meine van Noordwijk, Chief Scientist, ICRAF cautions  “ please question any statistic that refers to forests without further qualifiers. The numbers may mean something quite different from what you think they mean.” Read more

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