Despite unprecedented efforts at reforestation in recent decades, China's native forests continue to be displaced by plantations. Collective forest land (CFL)—land owned by rural households/communities—accounts for 60% of China's total forest land and harbors nearly half of its remaining native forests. However, China's existing policy structure for native forests suffers from considerable deficiencies with regard to CFL, most notably because policies provide no mechanism for restoring native forests on CFL. Rectifying these deficiencies requires that China's management approach toward CFL forests recognize the value of forests, especially native forests, for things other than tree crop production. In particular, policies must account for biodiversity in assessing the ecological conditions and values of forests and must provide incentives to protect and restore native forests. An opportunity has arisen to incentivize native forest recovery on CFL through the newly announced “mechanism of compensation for ecological protection” (MCEP), introduced in May 2016 and on track to become China's umbrella policy for ecosystem protection. Currently, however, MCEP does not explicitly target CFL, and it contains no incentives for restoring native forests. Adding these elements to MCEP could herald a renaissance for China's diminishing native forests and associated biodiversity. The Chinese government should not let this opportunity slip away.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- collective forest land
- ecosystem services
- forest loss
- native forest