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Natural disasters and economic development drive forest dynamics and transition in China


  • Zhang, Kerong
  • Song, Conghe
  • Zhang, Yulong
  • Zhang, Quanfa


China has been implementing the world's most ambitious afforestation and forest conservation programs and undergoing rapid forest expansion since 1990s, thus, understanding the forest dynamics in China has global implications for sustainable forest management. Through analyzing forest area, biomass dynamics, and factors influencing deforestation and forest restoration, we found that the natural disasters and economic development drove forest dynamics and transition in China. The growth of the economy and population drove up demand for forest products, facilitating deforestation. The booming economy also boosted government's investment in forest restoration and conservation programs. Natural disasters damaged and frequently destroyed forests, but they also served as stimuli for the authorities to adopt remedy forestry policies and programs that ultimately led to forest increase. Nationwide, increasing peaks of annual afforestation were observed in the late 1950s, early 1980s, and early 2000s, and the newly increased area closed for forest restoration reached the peak in 1998. All these peaks were closely associated with peaks of natural disasters (i.e., floods, drought, and dust storm events). Based on the dynamics of forest area, biomass and forest consumption over the past 40years, forest transition occurred during the late 1980s to the early 1990s, and it also strengthened the carbon (C) sink function of forests in China (with an increasing rate of 0.137PgCyr.−1 during 1994–2008). Overall, our study highlighted the influences of natural disasters and economic development on the forestry policies and forest C dynamics in the newly industrialized country.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhang, Kerong & Song, Conghe & Zhang, Yulong & Zhang, Quanfa, 2017. "Natural disasters and economic development drive forest dynamics and transition in China," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 56-64.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:forpol:v:76:y:2017:i:c:p:56-64
    DOI: 10.1016/j.forpol.2015.08.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Miyamoto, Motoe & Mohd Parid, Mamat & Noor Aini, Zakaria & Michinaka, Tetsuya, 2014. "Proximate and underlying causes of forest cover change in Peninsular Malaysia," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 18-25.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Nassl & Jörg Löffler, 2019. "How Societal Values Determine the Local Use of Forest Resources—Findings from the Rural Community Kegong (Northwest Yunnan, China)," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(12), pages 1-16, June.
    2. Yang Ren & Jari Kuuluvainen & Anne Toppinen & Shunbo Yao & Sami Berghäll & Heimo Karppinen & Caixia Xue & Liu Yang, 2018. "The Effect of China’s New Circular Collective Forest Tenure Reform on Household Non-Timber Forest Product Production in Natural Forest Protection Project Regions," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(4), pages 1-17, April.
    3. Li, Lingchao & Chhatre, Ashwini & Liu, Jinlong, 2019. "Multiple drivers and pathways to China's forest transition," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 1-1.
    4. Valente, Donatella & Miglietta, Pier Paolo & Porrini, Donatella & Pasimeni, Maria Rita & Zurlini, Giovanni & Petrosillo, Irene, 2019. "A first analysis on the need to integrate ecological aspects into financial insurance," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 392(C), pages 117-127.
    5. Qi Cai & Yushi Cai & Yali Wen, 2018. "Spatially Differentiated Trends between Forest Pest-Induced Losses and Measures for Their Control in China," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(1), pages 1-16, December.


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