ABSTRACT: China is investing immense resources for planting trees, totalling more than US$ 100 billion in the past decade alone. Every year, China reports more afforestation than the rest of the world combined. Here, we show that China's forest cover gains are highly definition-dependent. If the definition of 'forest' follows FAO criteria (including immature and temporarily unstocked areas), China has gained 434 000 km2 between 2000 and 2010. However, remotely detectable gains of vegetation that non-specialists would view as forest (tree cover higher than 5 m and minimum 50% crown cover) are an order of magnitude less (33 000 km2). Using high-resolution maps and environmental modelling, we estimate that approximately 50% of the world's forest with minimum 50% crown cover has been lost in the past approximately 10 000 years. China historically lost 1.9-2.7 million km2 (59-67%), and substantial losses continue. At the same time, most of China's afforestation investment targets environments that our model classes as unsuitable for trees. Here, gains detectable via satellite imagery are limited. Conversely, the regions where modest gains are detected are environmentally suitable but have received little afforestation investment due to conflicting land-use demands for agriculture and urbanization. This highlights the need for refined forest monitoring, and greater consideration of environmental suitability in afforestation programmes.
Project description:Globally, the extent of forest continues to decline, however, some countries have increased their forest extent in recent years. China is one of these countries and has managed to increase their tree cover through huge reforestation and afforestation programs during recent decades as well as land abandonment dynamics. This study investigates tree cover change in the eastern half of China between 2000 and 2010 on three different scales, using random forest modeling of remote sensing data for tree cover in relation to environmental and anthropogenic predictor variables. Our results show that between the years 2000 and 2010 2,667,875 km2 experienced an increase in tree cover while 1,854,900 km2 experienced a decline in tree cover. The area experiencing ?10% increase in tree cover is almost twice as large as the area with ?10% drop in tree cover. There is a clear relation between topography and tree cover change with steeper and mid-elevation areas having a larger response on tree cover increase than other areas. Furthermore, human influence, change in population density, and actual evapotranspiration are also important factors in explaining where tree cover has changed. This study adds to the understanding of tree cover change in China, as it has focus on the entire eastern half of China on three different scales and how tree cover change is linked to topography and anthropogenic pressure. Though, our results show an increase in tree cover in China, this study emphasizes the importance of incorporating anthropogenic factors together with biodiversity protection into the reforestation and afforestation programs in the future.
Project description:In the aftermath of the severe droughts and floods at the end of the 20th century, the Chinese government launched several ecological restoration projects, including the Natural Forest Protection Program in 1998 and the Grain-for-Green Program in 1999, to promote afforestation and reforestation to reduce surface runoff and consequent soil erosion nationwide. However, it is still unclear how vegetation has changed in southern China since the launch of these programs. In this study, we used the MODIS Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) to analyze the vegetation cover dynamics in southern China from 2000 to 2009 and evaluate the resulting effects of controlling soil erosion. Our observations indicate that 5.3% of the study area significantly increased and 0.98% significantly decreased in EVI value (p < 0.05). The spring EVI had largest increase in space. The conversions of croplands on steep slopes to forests resulting from national policies led to significant increases in EVI. The increase in EVI was not driven by annual average temperature and annual precipitation. By referencing ecological restoration statistical data and field observations, we showed that ecological restoration programs significantly improved vegetation cover in southern China. Increase in the area of farmland-converted forestlands has reduced soil erosion based upon monitoring sediment yields at hydrologic stations in the Yangtze River. This study displays the spatial patterns of trend in vegetation growth since the beginning of the 21st century in southern China and highlights the important role of China's afforestation program.
Project description:It is increasingly acknowledged that land-use and land-cover change has become a key subject that urgently needs to be addressed in the study of global environmental change. In the present study, supported by the long-time-series of land-use and land-cover data from 1990, 2000, and 2017, we used the land-use transition matrix, Markov chain model and Moran's I to derive detailed information of the spatial patterns and temporal variation of the land-use and land-cover change; additionally, we highlight the deforestation/afforestation conversion process during the period of 1990-2017. The results show that a total of 4708 km2 (i.e., 2.0% of the total area) changed in Guangxi from 1990 to 2017, while 418 km2 of woodland has been lost in this region. The woodland lost (deforestation) and woodland gained (afforestation) were collocated with intensive forest practices in the past 27 years. The conversions from woodland to cropland and from woodland to grassland were the dominant processes of deforestation and afforestation, respectively. Steep slope cropland was one of the major conversion patterns of afforestation after 2000. This result is mainly explained by the implementation of the "Grain for Green Program" policy and the large-scale development of eucalyptus plantations. Further efforts should be made to control deforestation in this area. These findings can also be used as a reference in the formulation and implementation of sustainable woodland management policies.
Project description:China harbors diversified forest types, from tropical rainforest to boreal coniferous forest, and has implemented large-scale reforestation/afforestation programs over the past several decades. However, little information is available on changes in China's forest area and the causes. In this study, we used the classified forest distribution thematic map derived from Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) datasets and a revised IPAT model to examine China's forest area change and the possible driving factors from 1982 to 2006. Overall, NDVI-derived forest areas were numerically consistent with those reported in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th National Forest Inventories, respectively. Over the past 25 years, China's forest area was estimated to have an average of 169.18 million hectares with an annual increase of 0.15 million hectares (c.a. a total net increment of 3.60 million hectares), which is equivalent to 0.089% of the relative annual change rate. However, a large difference in the changing rate and direction of forest area at the province level was found; for instance, forest area has declined in 10 provinces, mainly in Northeastern and Southern China, while 21 provinces showed an increase. The changes were most likely attributed to the policy regarding the import and export of timber and affluence (per capita gross domestic product), and both contributed more than 80% of the total contribution of the six factors of the revised IPAT model.
Project description:The Three Gorges Reservoir Region (TGRR) in China is an ecologically and politically important region experiencing rapid land use/cover changes and prone to many environment hazards related to soil erosion. In the present study, we: (1) estimated recent changes in the risk pattern of soil erosion in the TGRR, (2) analysed how the changes in soil erosion risks could be associated with land use and land cover change, and (3) examined whether the interactions between urbanisation and natural resource management practices may exert impacts on the risks. Our results indicated a declining trend of soil erosion risk from 14.7 × 106 t in 2000 to 1.10 × 106 t in 2015, with the most risky areas being in the central and north TGRR. Increase in the water surface of the Yangtze River (by 61.8%, as a consequence of water level rise following the construction of the Three Gorges Dam), was found to be negatively associated with soil erosion risk. Afforestation (with measured increase in forest extent by 690 km2 and improvement of NDVI by 8.2%) in the TGRR was associated with positive soil erosion risk mitigation. An interaction between urbanisation (urban extant increased by 300 km2) and vegetation diversification (decreased by 0.01) was identified, through which the effect of vegetation diversification on soil erosion risk was negative in areas having lower urbanisation rates only. Our results highlight the importance of prioritising cross-sectoral policies on soil conservation to balance the trade-offs between urbanisation and natural resource management.
Project description:The Chinese National Forest Inventory (NFI) has reported increased forest coverage in China since 2000, however, the new satellite-based dataset Global Forest Change (GFC) finds decreased forest coverage. In this study, four satellite datasets are used to investigate this discrepancy in forest cover change estimates in China between 2000 and 2013: forest cover change estimated from MODIS Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR), existing MODIS Land Cover (LC) and Vegetation Continuous Fields (VCF) products, and the Landsat-based GFC. Among these satellite datasets, forest loss shows much better agreement in terms of total change area and spatial pattern than do forest gain. The net changes in forest cover as a proportion of China's land area varied widely from increases of 1.56% in NBR, 1.93% in VCF, and 3.40% in LC to a decline of -0.40% in GFC. The magnitude of net forest increase derived from MODIS datasets (1.56-3.40%) is lower than that reported in NFI (3.41%). Algorithm parameters, different spatial resolutions, and inconsistent forest definitions could be important sources of the discrepancies. Although several MODIS datasets support an overall forest increase in China, the direction and magnitude of net forest change is still unknown due to the large uncertainties in satellite-derived estimates.
Project description:An understanding of the processes governing natural afforestation over large spatial scales is vital for enhancing forest carbon sequestration. Models of tree species occurrence probability in non-forest vegetation could potentially identify the primary variables determining natural afforestation. However, inferring processes governing afforestation using tree species occurrence is potentially problematic, since it is impossible to know whether observed occurrences are due to recruitment or persistence of existing trees following disturbance. Plant functional traits have the potential to reveal the processes by which key environmental and land cover variables influence afforestation. We used 10,061 survey plots to identify the primary environmental and land cover variables influencing tree occurrence probability in non-forest vegetation in New Zealand. We also examined how these variables influenced diversity of functional traits linked to plant ecological strategy and dispersal ability. Mean annual temperature was the most important environmental predictor of tree occurrence. Local woody cover and distance to forest were the most important land cover variables. Relationships between these variables and ecological strategy traits revealed a trade-off between ability to compete for light and colonize sites that were marginal for tree occurrence. Biotically dispersed species occurred less frequently with declining temperature and local woody cover, suggesting that abiotic stress limited their establishment and that biotic dispersal did not increase ability to colonize non-woody vegetation. Functional diversity for ecological strategy traits declined with declining temperature and woody cover and increasing distance to forest. Functional diversity for dispersal traits showed the opposite trend. This suggests that low temperatures and woody cover and high distance to forest may limit tree species establishment through filtering on ecological strategy traits, but not on dispersal traits. This study shows that 'snapshot' survey plot data, combined with functional trait data, may reveal the processes driving tree species establishment in non-forest vegetation over large spatial scales.
Project description:Energy infrastructures can have negative impacts on the environment. In remote and / or sparsely populated as well as in conflict-prone regions, these can be difficult to assess, in particular when they are of a large scale. Analyzing land use and land cover changes can be an important initial step towards establishing the quantity and quality of impacts. Drawing from very-high-resolution-multi-temporal-satellite-imagery, this paper reports on a study which employed the Random Forest Classifier and Land Change Modeler to derive detailed information of the spatial patterns and temporal variations of land-use and land-cover changes resulting from the China-Myanmar Oil and Gas Pipelines in Ann township in Myanmar's Rakhine State of Myanmar. Deforestation and afforestation conversion processes during pre- and post-construction periods (2010 to 2012) are compared. Whilst substantial forest areas were lost along the pipelines, this is only part of the story, as afforestation has also happened in parallel. However, afforestation areas can be of a lower value, and in order to be able to take quality of forests into account, it is of crucial importance to accompany satellite-imagery based techniques with field observation. Findings have important implications for future infrastructure development projects in conflict-affected regions in Myanmar and elsewhere.
Project description:China has experienced substantial changes in vegetation cover, with a 10% increase in the leaf area index and an ~41.5 million-hectare increase in forest area since the 1980s. Earlier studies have suggested that increases in leaf area and tree cover have led to a decline in soil moisture and runoff due to increased evapotranspiration (ET), especially in dry regions of China. However, those studies often ignored precipitation responses to vegetation increases, which could offset some of the negative impact on soil moisture by increased ET. We investigated 30-year vegetation impacts on regional hydrology by allowing for vegetation-induced changes in precipitation using a coupled land-atmosphere global climate model, with a higher spatial resolution zoomed grid over China. We found high spatial heterogeneity in the vegetation impacts on key hydrological variables across China. In North and Southeast China, the increased precipitation from vegetation greening and the increased forest area, although statistically insignificant, supplied enough water to cancel out enhanced ET, resulting in weak impact on soil moisture. In Southwest China, however, the increase in vegetation cover significantly reduced soil moisture while precipitation was suppressed by the weakened summer monsoon. In Northeast China, the only area where forest cover declined, soil moisture was significantly reduced, by -8.1 mm decade-1, likely because of an intensified anticyclonic circulation anomaly during summer. These results suggest that offline model simulations can overestimate the increase of soil dryness in response to afforestation in North China, if vegetation feedbacks lead to increased precipitation like in our study.
Project description: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.