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World's Biggest Reforestation Program in China Not Helping Biodiversity, Harming Existing Wildlife

Sep 09, 2016 04:39 AM EDT
Jiu Zhai Gou, Sichuan China
China's largest reforestation program has a lot pros, but there are also challenges to face such as how using monoculture instead of native trees can affect the biodiversity and the existing wildlife in the areas.
(Photo : sung ming whang/Creative Commons Image/Flickr)

China's largest reforestation program is helping to restore the country's forests, however it is harming the existing wildlife and is not helping biodiversity.

According to Science Daily, the Grain-for-Green Program aims to change the barren scrubland and 28 million hectares (69.2 million acres) of crop land to transform it into a forest so that it can avoid erosion and fight back rural poverty. The program also includes giving incentives such as cash payments to the people living in an area to encourage them take part in the reforestation efforts, Nature reports.

Despite the good intentions and study of the program, there is little awareness given about its effects to the biodiversity.The tree species that were brought to the area are monoculture instead of native trees that affect wildlife and biodiversity of the place.

A new research was conducted by Princeton University to find sout if this move by China will benefit biodiversity and wildlife while still improving the economy.The researchers suggested using a mixture of trees in the forest where native trees will be included, as they believe this will be better for biodiversity and wildlife.

To prove this, the researches studied 258 publications that state the current composition of trees of the program. It reveals that there are only three areas that have native trees while most of the areas have monocultured trees such as eucalyptus or Japanese cedar and bamboos. Next, they researchers focused on the Sichuan province where they conducted a fieldwork to study birds and bees. Birds and bees are great indicators to know if a place has good biodiversity.

They discovered that places that have monocultured trees have lesser bird species compared to those with mixed forests. Because of the lack of floral resources, bees have more difficulty to thrive under the reforestation program.

To answer the economic effect, the researchers interviewed people in the areas. Based on the data given by 160 households, profits from monoculture are still similar with those in mixed forests. Researchers, thus, concluded that mixed forests will be a better choice for reforestation as this will be beneficial to both wildlife and biodiversity while making similar gains of profits.

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