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China still behind on forest inventory

While forest coverage has increased across the nation, China still lags behind in woodland coverage in comparison with the global average according to the State Forestry Administration (SFA). Source: Global Times

In the five-year National Forest Inventory, China’s forest coverage ratio is 21.63% a rise of 1.27 percentage points over five years ago, while the global average ratio is 31%.

Forest stock volume has improved by 1.416 billion cubic meters to 15.137 billion.

Total forested area grew to 208 million hectares, up from 195 million hectares, with an increase of 2.15 million hectares of natural forests, which contributed the most to forest resources growth, the inventory found.

The problem of illegal logging remains, said Zhao Shucong, chief of SFA.

More than 130,000 hectares of forest is logged illegally every year for construction and the area available for afforestation has been reduced by accelerating urbanization and industrialization.

China has vowed to increase its forest coverage ratio to 23% by 2020 and the figure is designed to exceed 26% by 2050, which would indicate a total forest area of 312 million hectares.

“We must supervise and manage forests strictly to stick to the forestry ecological red line, which stands at 312 million hectares,” Zhao said.

Zhang Jianlong, deputy chief of the SFA, said that China continues to hold the largest area of plantations in the world.

The 69.33 million hectares of planted forest accounts for more than 70% of all afforestation programs around the globe.

“About 500 cubic meters of timber is consumed by the nation presently and the number is likely to grow to 800 million by 2020.

“We will work to provide more timber domestically and keep our reliance on international supplies at below 60 percent,” Zhang said.

The increase in forested areas, as well as improvement in forest structure and quality, has helped enhance the ecological functions of forests.

The annual water conservation volume was 580.7 billion cubic meters and soil fixation exceeded 8 billion tons.

Forests absorbed 38 million tons of pollutants every year with dust deposits from events such as sandstorms reaching 5.845 billion tons.

“Forests may help combat serious air pollution as well when they absorb dust to prevent it from adding to the bad air condition caused by PM2.5. To this end, we must strengthen our afforestation efforts,” Zhao said.

Forestry expert Gao Chengda told the Global Times that China does not have as many natural forestry resources as Russia or Finland. Past abuse of forests has worsened the situation.

“It takes decades before newly planted trees grow into forest. Our greening efforts must coordinate with other industries as China develops. There is, for example, a red line for farmland that should never be replaced with forests,” Gao said.