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Excessive reliance on afforestation in China's arid and semi-arid regions: Lessons in ecological restoration

Excessive reliance on afforestation in China's arid and semi-arid regions: Lessons in ecological restoration,10.1016/j.earscirev.2010.11.002,Earth-sci

Excessive reliance on afforestation in China's arid and semi-arid regions: Lessons in ecological restoration   (Citations: 3)
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Afforestation is a primary tool for controlling desertification and soil erosion in China. Large-scale afforestation, however, has complex and poorly understood consequences for the structure and composition of future ecosystems. Here, we discuss the potential links between China's historical large-scale afforestation practices and the program's effects on environmental restoration in arid and semi-arid regions in northern China based on a review of data from published papers, and offer recommendations to overcome the shortcomings of current environmental policy. Although afforestation is potentially an important approach for environmental restoration, current Chinese policy has not been tailored to local environmental conditions, leading to the use of inappropriate species and an overemphasis on tree and shrub planting, thereby compromising the ability to achieve environmental policy goals. China's huge investment to increase forest cover seems likely to exacerbate environmental degradation in environmentally fragile areas because it has ignored climate, pedological, hydrological, and landscape factors that would make a site unsuitable for afforestation. This has, in many cases, led to the deterioration of soil ecosystems and decreased vegetation cover, and has exacerbated water shortages. Large-scale and long-term research is urgently needed to provide information that supports a more effective and flexible environmental restoration policy.
Journal: Earth-science Reviews - EARTH-SCI REV , vol. 104, no. 4, pp. 240-245, 2011
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    • ...To alleviate severe soil erosion and desertification due to deforestation and overgrazing, China has implemented unprecedented large-scale afforestation throughout the country (Li 2004; Cao et al. 2011)...
    • ...In some cases, the afforestation has produced unintended environmental and socioeconomic consequences, and has failed to achieve the desired ecological benefits (Cao et al. 2011)...
    • ...Although China’s total forest area is increasing, monitoring suggests there have also been many planting failures that resulted from choosing inappropriate species (Cao et al. 2011)...
    • ... tree species (e.g., Populus tremula, Pinus tabulaeformis, Robinia pseudoacacia) have been preferred by Chinese foresters because they offer attractive short-term results, but the planted trees are often unsuitable for the afforestation sites in the long term; they deplete soil moisture because their transpiration rate is higher than that of the native plants they replace and higher than the rate at which soil water is replenished (Cao et al. ...
    • ...Unfortunately, the reduced soil moisture and sunlight that develop under expanding tree canopies can lead to dramatic declines in the biodiversity and cover of native grasses and other plant species, particularly when planters remove some of this vegetation (whether manually or using herbicides) before planting to prevent it from interfering with tree establishment (Normile 2007; Cao et al. 2011)...
    • ...Between 1952 and 2005, overall survival rates of trees planted during reforestation projects have been as low as 24% for China as a whole (Cao et al. 2011)...
    • ...Many degraded ecosystems show remarkable ability to recover through natural processes (Mitchell and Ricardo 2004; Jiang et al. 2006; Cao et al. 2011)...

    Shixiong Caoet al. Greening China Naturally

    • ...Ecologists are often interested in the environmental factors that regulate plant and soil microbe community diversity across temporal and spatial scales, the impact of human activity on this diversity and the consequences of this diversity for ecosystem processes (Cao et al. 2010)...

    Yang Gaoet al. An approach for assessing soil health: a practical guide for optimal e...

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