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The Effectiveness of China’s National Forest Protection Program and National-level Nature Reserves, 2000 to 2010

By Guopeng Ren, Stephen S. Young, Lin Wang, Wei Wang, Yongcheng Long, Ruidong Wu, Junsheng Li, Jianguo Zhu, Douglas W. Yu

Posted 25 Nov 2013
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/000893 (published DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12561)

There is profound interest in knowing the degree to which China’s institutions are capable of protecting its natural forests and biodiversity in the face of economic and political change. China’s two most important forest protection policies are its National Forest Protection Program (NFPP) and its National-level Nature Reserves (NNRs). The NFPP was implemented in 17 provinces starting in the year 2000 in response to deforestation-caused flooding. We used MODIS data (MOD13Q1) to estimate forest cover and forest loss across mainland China, and we report that 1.765 million km2 or 18.7% of mainland China was covered in forest (12.3%, canopy cover > 70%) and woodland (6.4%, 40% ≤ canopy cover < 70%) in 2000. By 2010, a total of 480,203 km2 of forest+woodland was lost, amounting to an annual deforestation rate of 2.7%. The forest-only loss was 127,473 km2, or 1.05% annually. The three most rapidly deforested provinces were outside NFPP jurisdiction, in the southeast. Within the NFPP provinces, the annual forest+woodland loss rate was 2.26%, and the forest-only rate was 0.62%. Because these loss rates are likely overestimates, China appears to have achieved, and even exceeded, its NFPP target of reducing deforestation to 1.1% annually in the target provinces. We also assemble the first-ever polygon dataset for China’s forested NNRs (n=237), which covered 74,030 km2 in 2000. Conventional unmatched and covariate-matching analyses both find that about two-thirds of China’s NNRs exhibit effectiveness in protecting forest cover and that within-NNR deforestation rates are higher in provinces that have higher overall deforestation.

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