China’s forest recovery offers hope for mitigating climate change

The vast destruction of China’s forests, leveled after decades of logging, floods and conversion to farmland, has become a story of recovery, according to the first independent verification published in…Science Advances by Michigan State University researchers.

“It is encouraging that China’s forest has been recovering in the midst of its daunting environmental challenges such as severe air pollution and water shortages,” said co-author Jianguo “Jack” Liu…director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability…

Forests are crucial to ensuring soil and water conservation and climate regulation. The fate of forests in the world’s most populous nation has global consequences by virtue of the country’s sheer magnitude and its rapid development.

Since the beginning of the 21st Century, China has implemented the largest forest conservation andRecovering forests, with deforested areas in the background in Wolong China restoration programs in the world, the Natural Forest Conservation Program, which bans logging, and in some forested areas compensates residents for monitoring activities preventing illegal timber harvesting…

The MSU scientists used a unique combination of data, including the big-picture view of NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer annual…tree cover product, along with high spatial resolution imagery available in Google Earth. Then they combined data at different scales to correlate the status of the forests with the implementation of the NFCP.

And, as the Chinese government has contended, the program is working and forests are recovering, with about 1.6 percent, or nearly 61,000 square miles, of China’s territory seeing a significant gain in tree cover, while 0.38 percent, or 14,400 square miles, experienced significant loss…

Andrés Viña noted more research is needed to document the broader impacts of forest degradation and recovery around the world. He also noted that the voracious appetite for natural resources — both timber and the agricultural products grown on converted forestland — is not just China’s issue.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation and MSU AgBioResearch. Another fine example of computational analysis from digital measurement sources. In this case, a lot of it in the sky. 🙂

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