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FEATURE STORY

Timber Plantations, Protected Areas Relieve Pressure on China’s Natural Forests

December 6, 2007

China has been a forest-poor country for a long time. The increasing gap between timber supply and demand is a constraint to sustainable forestry development which has led to a threat to biodiversity and natural forest protection.

Challenge

Existing inventories suggest that China contains approximately 10 percent of all living species on Earth. But much of China’s biodiversity is under threat from a rapidly growing human population which has doubled in size since 1949 and is now estimated at 1.3 billion people. The combination of large population and limited arable land has led to extensive loss of natural habitats to agricultural production, logging, wood collection and livestock grazing. Other factors including fires, dams, pollution and pesticides have had a negative impact on China’s biodiversity.

Although a significant proportion of China’s remaining biodiversity is located in nature reserves, few reserves are managed and funded adequately and many face increasing pressure (logging, hunting, mining) from local communities.

Approach

  • In 1998, after devastating floods along the Yangtze River, the Chinese government declared a logging ban across vast areas of the country and laid out an ambitious plan to restore denuded ecosystems around watershed areas, protect remaining areas of high biodiversity and reduce the pressure on natural forests through a high-yielding timber plantation program.
  • China’s Tenth Five-Year Plan has made sustainable development a major national theme.
  • A Sustainable Forestry Development project (2002 - 09), mobilizing funds from the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (co-managed by the World Bank) and the European Commission seeks to improve management approaches in (i) selected natural forests, (ii) protected areas and (iii) tree plantations to relieve pressures on forest resources and protect the environment.
  • Thirteen nature reserves of global significance for biodiversity conservation purposes were selected in the provinces of Gansu, Sichuan, Yunan, Hubei, Hunan and Hainan. These include wetlands, tropical forest, mountainous regions and giant panda habitats.
  • Among other things, the project stresses co-management of resources with local communities and indigenous people within or bordering nature reserves.
  • It also aims to protect vital watersheds and reduce the risk of downstream flooding, and ensure a supply of wood to meet China’s growing demand, in a way that takes pressure off forests elsewhere in Asia.

Results

Responding to high market demand for timber products, timber plantation in participating areas has exceeded project targets.

  • As of April 2007, timber plantations and economic tree plantations (fruit and nut trees) under this one project reached about 154,000 ha and 67,000 ha respectively, with high tree survival rates.
  • To date, about 650,000 households have participated in the establishment and management of tree plantations.
  • More than 407 million improved planting stocks were produced and over 1.2 million person-days of training for farmers and forestry staff were provided.
  • An outdoor survey of Sichuan biodiversity is now 60 percent complete. Pilot survey report will be completed in early 2008 and will include an assessment of the impact of non-forestry product harvesting on the Giant Panda.
  • Community resource management plans have been formulated for all 26 pilot villages within or bordered protected areas. In one community (Gongshan), villagers have received training for improved agricultural practices and benefited from loans for purchasing agricultural inputs. Raising an improved breed of pigs, the villagers now sell piglets to neighboring villages.
  • Gas and wood burning energy saving stoves and cookers were designed specifically for project communities and were successfully demonstrated in all 13 nature reserves. In Baimaxueshan nature reserve (NR), 436 energy saving stoves and 29 energy saving cookers were distributed to local households around nature reserves. Some private enterprises have started making and selling these energy saving stoves in and around the project areas.
  • A number of agricultural activities and new crop varieties introduced by the project improved household yields significantly.  In Tangjiahe NR, bee keeping improved household incomes by about 25% annual (RMB 2000) a year after the activity was introduced. In Baiyand NR, the production of high quality seedlings of walnut trees improved incomes by 5% (RMB 400) and in Piankou NR the introduction of new maize varieties improved incomes by more than 10% (RMB 900).
  • All 13 project nature reserves record plant findings and animal sightings in their patrolling reports. These indicate either stabilization or an encouraging recovery of biodiversity. In Baimaxueshan for example, while the population of the Yunnan Golden Hair Monkey does not show a clear change, the populations of black bears and porcupines have increased.

World Bank Contribution

  • The World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (co-managed by the World Bank) and the European Commission are China’s partners in this project.
  • The World Bank provided a $93.9 million loan for forest expansion, GEF provided a $16 million grant for the biodiversity component of the project and the EC provided $15 million for natural forests. China’s co-financing is $105.6 million.
  • Capacity building has focused on training staff, enhancing the provincial training agencies’ capacity and encouraging the exchange of training experience and lessons across reserves. (The cumulative training of Nature Reserve staff reached more than 12,455 persons, of which 6,232 are farmers and community members.)
  • A study on ecotourism in the 13 nature reserves involved in the project has just begun. Its findings and results will help the Government formulate a national policy on eco-tourism for nature reserves in China.
  • Overall, the World Bank has supported China’s forestry sector through 8 projects covering 21 provinces since 1985, resulting in over 3.8 million ha of forest plantations..

Next Steps

Community participation is crucial to the effectiveness of protected area management and should continue to be stressed. Marketing of economic tree products (nuts and fruits) also needs to be bolstered to help single farm households in project areas reach adequate market venues where they can sell their fruits at reasonable price.