China Wants to Plant Massive Forest the Size of Ireland to Aid in Conservation Efforts

The Chinese government will continue its plan of covering nearly a quarter of its total landmass with forested areas by 2020.

China Wants to Plant Massive Forest the Size of Ireland to Aid in Conservation Efforts
Creek near the Dioshuihu Waterfall Rolfmueller/Wikimedia Creative Commons

The Chinese government recently announced a goal to plant enough trees to cover an area the size of Ireland in 2018, according to China Daily

"Companies, organisations and talent that specialise in greening work are all welcome to join in the country's massive greening campaign," said Zhang Jianlong, head of China's State Forestry Administration. "Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list."

China wants to grow 6.66 million new hectares of forest

This year would mark another year of China tackling environmental issues. The government plans on increasing total coverage from 21.7 percent to 23 percent over the next couple of years, according to China's forestry officials. The government also wants to grow at least 6.66 million new hectares of forest this year. 

This new forested area will be located in the northeast Hebei province, the Qinghai province in the Tibetan Plateau and in Inner Mongolia toward the Hunshandake Desert. 

Over the last two decades, China has spent roughly $47 billion in planting trees over 69.2 million acres of abandoned farmland. And over the last five years, there's been 33.8 million hectares planted. In total, investments have been estimated to cost $82.88 billion in planted trees and restoration services. These new policies will also come alongside something Zhang called "ecological red line" policies. Those new regulations would require local governments to cut down on "irrational" development near forested areas and other rivers and national parks.

However, a study from 2016 pointed out that while the reforestry efforts were commendable, they didn't do much in the way of encouraging biodiversity. China had been planing monocultures rather than forests and thus has seen issues with restoring biodiversity back into the area as well. 

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David Wilcove served as a Princeton University ecologist and evolutionary biologist. He noted that despite its issues, China's program could be an impressive model for other areas of the world to look toward -- especially those struggling with deforestation. 

"I think we are going to see bona fide land abandonment, and that’s going to create opportunities around the world for reforestation," Wilcove noted in a 2016 interview. "The critical policy question is how to restore forests that provide multiple benefits to society, including preventing soil erosion, providing timber, and sustaining wildlife."

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