China's Remaining Intact Forests Face Grim Threat

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Only 0.1 percent of China's intact forest landscapes—which cover an area of 55,448 square kilometers, or 2 percent of the nation's total forest resources—are under strict protection, according to a report on China's forest resources released yesterday in Beijing by the international environmental group Greenpeace.

Intact forests refer to natural forest regions covering an area of more than 500 square kilometers. In China, most of them are located in the southwest, including in western Sichuan Province, the region bordering Myanmar in Yunnan Province, and the region along the Yarlung Zangbo River. There are also tiny patches of intact forests at the northern tip of Inner Mongolia in the northeast and in Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the northwest.

Those regions are not only rich in biodiversity, but also harbor ecosystems that are vital for maintaining the local and regional climatic balance, such as glaciers, marshes, and wetlands. Due to rampant illegal logging and paper and pulp production, however, these areas have shrunk rapidly in recent years, as illustrated on satellite maps. "We would owe our future generations too much if we don't protect the very few intact forest landscapes left to us," said Liu Bing, Forest Campaign Manager of Greenpeace.

Environmentalists say there is still hope for protection. "The good news is that we still have some such forests left, and there are still possibilities to turn things around," noted Tamara Stark, International Advisor to Greenpeace. In order to better protect the remaining intact forests, Greenpeace urges governments to work with indigenous peoples and local stakeholders in establishing immediate moratoria on new industrial projects in these forests, and to allocate greater financial resources for conservation purposes. The group also advocates the banning of forest products that come from illegal or destructive sources.

Greenpeace is a global non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of biodiversity and the environment. It has a presence in 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific.