China seems to have made improvements in the realm of deforestation ever since Beijing implemented a forest conservation program in 1998. A team of scientists analyzed the nation's forest using satellite images in order to determine where tree cover expanded and decreased. and they found that over the last decade, there was a significant recovery in approximately 1.6 percent of China's territory.
Although 0.38 continued to lose tree cover, the findings are nevertheless a huge improvement.
"Before there was widespread deforestation," said Andrés Viñ, first author of the study. "Now that has stopped and there is a net gain in forest cover."
"It is encouraging that China's forests have been recovering in the midst of its daunting environmental challenges," added Jianguo Liu, co-author of the study.
Forests are extremely important for their biodiversity and ability to prevent erosion. However, one of their most beneficial abilities is acting as a carbon sink to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Elevated carbon dioxide levels are currently warming our planet, and forests are key to preventing this detrimental aspect of climate change.
Despite the promising results, they also suggest that China is improving their deforestation at the expense of other nations. For example, the country now imports a significant amount of timber from places such as Vietnam, Madagascar and Russia.
"We think that success in reducing deforestation in China is basically being transferred into deforestation in other regions," Viña said.
"Over the long-term, sustainable forest management in China is important for forests in the rest of the world," said Robert Tansey, senior adviser for external affairs and policy in Northeast Asia and Greater China at The Nature Conservancy, who was not involved with the study.
"The exporting countries are suffering from deforestation," Liu added. "A large proportion of the wood products imported to China have been used to make furniture for developed countries such as the USA and those in Europe."
Future studies will examine how shifting deforestation patterns affect the land rights of those who live in the world's forests that are currently being harvested for materials.
The findings were published in the March 18 issue of the journal Science Advances.