Climate and Environmental Change

Forest change of China in recent 300 years

  • Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China

Received date: 2007-08-21

  Revised date: 2007-10-25

  Online published: 2008-02-25

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40471007; No.40571007; Knowledge Innovation Project of CAS, No.KZCX2-YW-315-4


Based on historical documents, modern survey and statistics, as well as the result of predecessor studies, the trend and main process of forest dynamics are recognized. The forest area and forest coverage rates for each province of China from 1700 to 1949 are es-timated backward by every 50 years. Linking the result with modern National Forest Inventory data, the spatial-temporal dynamics of Chinese forest in recent 300 years (AD 1700–1998) is quantitatively analyzed. The study shows that in recent 300 years, the forest area in current territory of China has declined by 0.95×108 hm2 (or 9.2% of the coverage rate) in total, with a trend of decrease and recovery. Before the 1960s, there was a trend of accelerated de-scending. The forest area was reduced by 1.66×108 hm2 (or 17% of the coverage rate) in 260 years. While after the 1960s, there has been a rapid increase. The forest area increased by 0.7×108 hm2 (or 8% of the coverage rate) in 40 years. The study also shows that there is a significant spatial difference in the dynamics of forest. The amplitudes of increasing and de-creasing in western China are both smaller than the ones in eastern China. During the rapid declining period from 1700 to 1949, the most serious decrease appeared in the Northeast, the Southwest and the Southeast, where the coverage rate in most provinces dropped over 20%. In Heilongjiang Province, the coverage rate dropped by 50%. In Jilin Province, it dropped by 36%. In Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality, it dropped by 42%. In Yunnan Prov-ince, it dropped by 35%. During the recovery period 1949–1998, the western provinces, mu-nicipality and autonomous regions, including Ningxia, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Si-chuan–Chongqing, Yunnan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Qinghai, etc, the increase rates are all below 5%, while the eastern provinces, municipality and autonomous regions (except Heilongjiang, Hubei, Jiangsu–Shanghai) have achieved an increase over 5%, among which the Guang-dong–Hainan, Guangxi, Anhui, Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei, Shandong, Henan, Zhejiang, and Fu-jian have an increase over 10%.

Cite this article

HE Fanneng, GE Quansheng, DAI Junhu, RAO Yujuan . Forest change of China in recent 300 years[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2008 , 18(1) : 59 -72 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-008-0059-8