Research ArticleECOSYSTEMS

Effects of conservation policy on China’s forest recovery

Science Advances  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 3, e1500965
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500965

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Abstract

Forest loss is one of the most pervasive land surface transformations on Earth, with drastic effects on global climate, ecosystems, and human well-being. As part of biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation efforts, many countries, including China, have been implementing large-scale policies to conserve and restore forests. However, little is known about the effectiveness of these policies, and information on China’s forest dynamics at the national level has mainly relied on official statistics. In response to international calls for improved reliability and transparency of information on biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation efforts, it is crucial to independently verify government statistics. Furthermore, if forest recovery is verified, it is essential to assess the degree to which this recovery is attributable to policy, within the context of other relevant factors. We assess the dynamics of forest cover in China between 2000 and 2010 and evaluate the effectiveness of one of the largest forest conservation programs in the world—the Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP). Results indicate that forest cover has significantly increased in around 1.6% of China’s territory and that the areas exhibiting forest gain experienced a combined increase in net primary productivity (ca. 0.9 Tg of carbon). Among the variables evaluated at county level, the NFCP exhibited a significantly positive relation with forest gain, whereas reduction in rural labor showed a negative relationship with both forest loss and gain. Findings such as these have global implications for forest conservation and climate change mitigation efforts.

Keywords
  • Conservation policy
  • economic development
  • forest transition
  • land use change
  • Natural Forest Conservation Program
  • spatio-temporal dynamics

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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