Forest Resources in China


Forest, as the main body of terrestrial ecosystem and the largest biological community, is the material basis that the human society depends for subsistence and the cradle of nurturing the human race. Forest not only provides timber and other forest products for economic and social development and the people's life, but possesses multiple ecological functions such as water resources conservation, water and soil conservation and ecological balance maintenance, and supplies the human beings with venues for relaxation, recreation and other social services. Forest has become indispensable natural resources for the mankind.

Strengthening ecological improvement and maintaining ecological security are the common issues that human beings are facing in the 21st century and also the important foundation for sustainable economic and social development. The Chinese government has attached great importance to protection and development of forest resources, promulgated a series of policies and measures to increase the total amount of forests , improve forest quality and enhance forest functions, and made major contributions to promoting sustainable economic and social development , maintaining ecological security and addressing global climate change.

This brochure, with the 8th national forest inventory (NFI) outcome as the basis, has given a concise and well-Illustrated description of the types, composition, quality,functions and benefits of forest resources in China.

Status of Forest Resources

China has a vast territory with numerous rivers, lakes and crisscross mountains. The diverse landform types and differential hydrothermal conditions in the latitudinal, longitudinal and vertical terrains have formed a complex natural and geographical environment. China is endowed by forest resources with a great variety of biological species and vegetation types, which have provided the mankind with a wealth of eco-products, wood products and eco-cultural services. In China, the forest area is 208 million hectares and the forest coverage is 21.63% of the total land area. The forest stock volume reaches 15,137 million cubic meters.

Forest Resources

China is in the front ranks of the world in terms of the total amount of forest resources. The forest area in China accounts for 5% of world's total, ranking the fifth behind Russia, Brazil, Canada and the United States. The forest stock volume is 3% of the world's total, ranking the sixth after Brazil, Russia, the United States, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Canada. The plantation area ranks China the first in the world.

Based on the results of the 8 NFIs conducted between 1973 and 2013, China has achieved the 'double increases' in forest area and forest stock volume since the early 1990s. In particular, after entering in the 21st century, with forest resources in a period of rapid growth , China has become one of the countries with the fastest growing forest resources in the world, and played a significant role in maintaining global ecological balance, conserving biodiversity, addressing climate change and promoting sustain able economic, ecological and social development.

However. China is still a country with a shortage of forest resources, fragile ecology and deficiency of eco-products, due to the impacts of nature, history, population and pressure of economic development. The forest coverage nationwide is far below the world average of 31%. The forest area per capita only makes up 1/4 of the world average, while the forest stock volume per capita accounts for merely 1/7 of the world average. The situation of insufficient forest resources with low quality and an uneven distribution has not been fundamentally changed, and the ecological security barrier has not been built in China.

China has only 5% of the world forest area and 3% of the world forest stock volume but would have to meet the huge demand for ecological and wood products from 23% of the world population, so that china has faced an increasing supply pressure. Strong protection and development of forest resources, promotion of sustainable forest management, increase of the total amount of forest resources, improvement of forest quality and ecological functions have become the strategic task of the Chinese government to promote ecological progress and build a beautiful country.

Forestland Area

The forestland is the land predominantly used for cultivation, restoration and development of forest vegetation. On the basis of trees cover and practical land use, forestland is categorized as forested land, open forest land, shrub land, unestablished forest land, nursery land, non-stocked forestland, land suitable for forest and other forestland. The forestland area totals 310.46 million ha, of which,

• Forested land is 191 .17 million ha,

• Open forest land is 4.01 million ha,

• Shrub land is 55.90 million ha,

• Unestablished forest land is 7.11million ha,

• Land suitable for forest is 39.58 million ha

• Other forestland (including nursery land, non-stocked forestland and the land used for forestry auxiliary production) is 12.69 million ha.

The forestland in China is divided by ownership into the state-owned forestland and the collectively-owned forestland, of which,

• State-owned forestland is 124 million ha, accounting for 40% of the total,

• Collectively-owned forestland is 186 million ha, accounting for 60% of the total.

Forest Stock Volume

The timber volume of all trees is generally called forest stock volume and also termed the total standing stock volume. According to different tree types, the total standing stock volume is classified into forest stock volume, open forest stock volume, scattered trees volume and four-side trees volume

The total standing stock volume is 16,433 million m3 in Chinaof which,

• Forest stock volume is 15.137 million m3,

• Open forest stock volume is 106 million m3,

• Scattered trees volume is 789 million m3,

• Four-side trees volume is 401 million m3,

Forest Quality and Health

The forest stock volume is 89.79 m3 per hectare, of which the natural forest stock volume is 104.62 m3 per hectare and the plantations 52.76 m3 per hectare. The average annual increment of forests is 4.23 m3 per hectare and the average number of trees per hectare is 953.The average crown closure is 0.57, and the average DBH 13.6cm

Based on comprehensive evaluation,

• High-quality forests take up 19%,

• Medium-quality forests take up 68%,

• Low-quality forests take up 13%.

The high-quality forests are mainly distributed in the forest areas of the greater Xing' an mountains of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Changbai mountains in northeast China, west Sichuan and northwest Yunnan Provinces in southwest China, Linzhi and Bomi in Tibet Autonomous Region, Tianshan mountains and Altai mountains in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Qinling mountains in Shaanxi Province, Wuyi mountains in Fujian Province and Wuzhi mountains in Hainan Province

The area of arbor forests hit by fire, pests and diseases and climate (wind, snow, flood and drought) calamities reaches 28.76 million ha, making up 17% of the total, among which,

• The severe damaged forest area accounts for 11 %.

• The medium damaged forest area accounts for 23%.

• The slightly damaged forest area accounts for 66%.

In the light of forest growth status and degree of damaged forests. the health of arbor forests is overall evaluated, with the results being as follows:

• The area of healthy arbor forests accounts for 75%.

• The area of sub-healthy arbor forests accounts for 18%.

• The area of medium healthy arbor forests accounts for 5%.

• The area of unhealthy arbor forests accounts for 2%.

Forest Structure and Functions

According to distinct biological attributes, growth process and management and utilization purpose, the forests are classified as the young forests, middle-aged forests, near-mature forests, mature forests and over-mature forests by age group in China.

• The young forest area is 53.32 million ha with the stock volume of 1,630 million m3,

• The middle-aged forest area is 53.ll million ha with the stock volume of 4,106 million m3,

• The near-mature forest area is 25.83 million ha with the stock volume of 3,034 million m3,

• The mature forest area is 21.76 million ha with the stock volume of 3,564 million m3,

• The over-mature forest area is 10.58 million ha with the stock volume of 2,445 million m3. Of the arbor forest area, the young and middle-aged forests make up a large proportion, taking up 65% of the total. The mature and over-mature forests, with the area only accounting for 19%, are mostly distributed in 6 provinces (autonomous regions) including Sichuan, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Yunnan and Jilin where the area of forests amounts to 70% of the total in the country. In terms of area, the top ten tree species (groups) in arbor forests are Quercus, Betula, Cunninghamia lanceolata, Larix gmelinii, Pinus massoniana, Populus, Pinus yunnanensis, Eucalyptus, Picea asperata and Platycladus orientalis. The area of the ten species is 86.49 million ha, taking up 53% of the total and the stock volume is 7,015 million m3, accounting for 47% of the total. According to different functions, forests are categorized as protective forests, special-purpose forests, timber forests, fuel-wood forests and economic forests.

• The protective forest area is 99.67 million ha with the stock volume of 7,948 million m3,

• The special-purpose forest area is 16.31 million ha with the stock volume of 2,170 million m3,

• The timber forest area is 67.24 million ha with the stock volume of 4,602 million m3,

• The fuel-wood forest area is 1.77 million ha with the stock volume of 59 million m3,

• The economic forest area is 20.56 million ha.

• The total biomass of forest vegetation is 17,002 million tons,

• The total carbon storage is 8,427 million tons,

• The annual amount of water conserved by forests is 580,700 million m3,

• The annually conserved soil is 8,191 million tons,

• The annually conserved soil fertilizer is 430 million tons,

• The annually absorbed atmospheric pollutants are 38 million tons,

• The annually detained dust is 5,845 million tons.

Natural Forests

The natural forest is the terrestrial ecosystem with the most complex structure and rather complete function in nature, and has played a key role in maintaining ecological balance, addressing climate change and protecting biodiversity. The Chinese government has implemented strictly natural forest protection policies and made great efforts to conduct the mountain-closure for natural regeneration of forests and enhance management of the natural forest, which has effectively promoted protection and development of natural forest resources in China. The area of natural forest in China is 121.84 million ha, taking up 64 % of forested land. The total natural forest stock volume reaches 12,296 million m3, making up 83% of forest stock volume. The natural forest is mainly distributed in the provinces of northeast and southwest China, among which the natural forest area of 7 provinces including Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet, Jiangxi and Jilin amounts to 74.54 million ha, taking up 61 % of the total , while the stock volume is 9,207 million m3, accounting for 75% of the total in the country.

The natural arbor forest is categorized by age group:

• The area of young forest is 34.66 million ha with the stock volume of 1.273 million m3,

• The area of middle-aged forest is 37.97 million ha with the stock volume of 3,179 million m3,

• The area of near -mature forest is 19.15 million ha with stock volume of 2,453 million m3,

• The area of mature forest is 16.66 million ha with the stock volume of 3,080 million m3,

• The area of over-mature forest is 9.09 million ha with the stock volume of 2,311 million m3. In terms of area, the top ten tree species (groups) in natural forest are Quercus, Betula, Larix gmelinii, Pinus massoniana, Pinus yunnanensis, Picea asperata, Abies fabri , Cupressus funebris, Cunninghamia lanceolata and Pinus densata. The area of the ten species (groups) amounts to 58.53 million ha, accounting for 50% of the total natural forest area and the stock volume is 6,649 million m3, making up 54% of the total natural forest stock volume.


The plantation is an important component of the terrestrial ecosystem and has played an increasing role in restoration and reconstruction of forest ecosystem, supply of wood products, increase of forest carbon sinks and improvement of ecological environment. The Chinese government has attached great importance to cultivation of plantation resources and taken a series of policies and measures to promote afforestation and greening work. With unremitting efforts made for several decades, China has greatly developed and expanded the plantation resources. The plantation area ranks China the first in the world. The plantation area amounts to 69.33 million ha, taking up 36% of the forested land area. The plantation stock volume reaches 2,483 millionm3, accounting for 17% of the forest stock volume. Six provinces (autonomous region) including Guangxi, Guangdong, Hunan, Sichuan, Yunnan and Fujian have relatively large areas of plantations, totaling 29.08 million ha, accounting for 42% of the total, and the plantation stock volume of 1,037 million m3, amounting to 42% of the total in the country. Guangxi Autonomous Region has the largest plantation area, taking up 9% of the total, and Fujian Province has the greatest plantation stock volume, accounting for 10% of the total in the country

The arbor plantations are categorized by age group:

• The area of young forest is 18.66 million ha with the stock volume of 357 million m3,

• The area of middle-aged forest covers 15.14 million ha with the stock volume of 927 million m3,

• The area of near-mature forest is 6.68 million ha with the stock volume of 581 million m3,

• The area of mature forest is 5.10 million ha with the stock volume of 484 million m3,

• The area of over -mature forest is 1.49 million ha with the stock volume of 134 million m3,

The top ten tree species (groups) in plantation are Cunninghamia lanceolata, Populus, Eucalyptus, Larix gmelinii, Pinus massoniana, Pinus tabuleaformis, Cupressus funebris, Pinus elliottii , Robinia pseudoacacia and Quercus. The total area of these species (groups) is 34.39 million ha, accounting for 73% of total plantation area and the stock volume is 1,852 million m3, making up 75% of the total plantation stock volume.

Bamboo Forest

China, known as the “kingdom of bamboo” is one of countries with the richest and widely-distributed bamboo resources in the world, and it has a long history of using the bamboo resources. China has more than 500 bamboo species in 39 genera. The number of cultivated economic bamboo species reaches 50 species including Phyllostachys pubescens (Moso bamboo), Phyllostachys viridis, Phyllostachys praecox, Phyllostachys sulphurea, Dianthus chinensis, Sinocalamus affinis and Dendrocalamus latiflorus munro. The species of Chimonobambusa utilis, Arundinaria fargesii and Fargesia spathacea are the endemic species in China and mostly distributed in the hilly areas with an elevation between 1000 meters and 3500 meters, and they are rare treasures of the world’s bamboo family.

The area of bamboo forest is 6.01 million ha, of which,

• The area of moso bamboo forest is 4.43 million ha, accounting for 74%,

• The area of bamboo forest is 1.58 million ha, accounting for 26%,The moso bamboo culms reach totally 11,213 million, of which,

• Moso bamboo forest culms are 9,097 million, making up 81 %,

• Scattered moso bamboo culms are 2,116 million, making up 19%. In China, the bamboo forest is mainly distributed in 18 provinces,of which 8 provinces (autonomous region) including Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Hunan, Sichuan, Guangdong, Guangxi and Anhui have the bamboo forest area of over 300,000 ha separately, accounting for 89% of the total. The moso bamboo forest is distributed in 13 provinces, among which 4 provinces including Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, and Zhejiang have an area of over 700,000 ha separately, amounting to 78% of the total in the country.


China is a country with rich types of shrubs and shrub species. Xerophytic shrubs including Haloxylon ammodendron, Nitraria schoberi, Elaeagnus angustifolia and Tamarix chinensis are the dominant shrub species in the warm temperate desert zone. Mesophytic shrubs such as Lespedeza bicolor, Spiraea salicifolia and Corylus chinensis are common shrub species in some temperate and subtropical mountains. Hygrophilous shrubs primarily distributed in the marsh meadows, valley swamp or flood plain and terraces of river banks are Betula fruticosa and Myricaria germanica etc. The major shrub species distributed in the upper bounds of coniferous forests in the cold temperate zone are alpine shrubs including mainly Pinus pumila, Pinus yunnanensis var. pygmaea, and Potentilla fruticosa and Rhododendron Simsii.

In China, shrubs are widely distributed. In particular, the stable shrub communities have become important habitats for wildlife in the alpine regions, wetlands and arid areas where it is difficult for arbor trees to grow. The shrubs have played a unique role in combating desertification and vegetation restoration in some special geographical areas in northwest China.

The area of shrubs is 55.90 million ha, accounting for 18% of the total forestland area. In which, the national special designated shrubs make up 67% and other shrubs take up 33% of the total. The shrubs are mainly distributed in the provinces (autonomous region) of southwest and northwest China. The eight provinces (autonomous regions) including Tibet, Sichuan, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Guangxi have a relatively large area of shrubs, reaching 42.32 million ha, accounting for 76% of the total in the country.

Forest Vegetation Types

China, with various types of landforms and complicated natural climate conditions, is rich in plant species and has diverse forest types with obvious zonal and distributional features. The main forest vegetation in China ranges from cold-temperate coniferous forests, temperate coniferous forests, temperate coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forests, warm coniferous forests and deciduous broad-leaved forests, to subtropical evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forests, evergreen broad-leaved forests, sclerophyllous evergreen broad-leaved forests, tropical monsoon forests and rainforests, which have made up a distinctive glorious forest landscape.

Cold-temperate coniferous forests are distributed in the cold-temperate zone and the subalpine regions with the low and middle latitudes, covering a total area of 15.43 million ha. The forests are relatively concentrated in the hilly areas of northeast and north China, Qinba, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions, the eastern and southern margins of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and Taiwan Province. Temperate coniferous forests are distributed in the plain areas, hilly land areas and low mountains in warm temperate zone, in the middle mountains in subtropical and tropical zones, covering about 5 million ha. The forests are composed of three formation groups, namely temperate pine forests, Chinese arborvitae forests and Chinese cryptomeria forests. The temperate pine forests are distributed northward in the hilly area of north China southwestward in Qinba hilly areas of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Hubei Provinces, and eastward in the low and hilly land areas of Huaihe River basin. The Chinese arborvitae forests are widespread in the areas of the northern part of China. The Chinese cryptomeria forests are mainly distributed in the mountainous areas of Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi Provinces.

Temperate coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forests are the transitional forest vegetation from mountainous broad-leaved forests to mountainous coniferous forests, covering a total area of 5.04 million ha. The coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forests dominated by Korean pine are distributed in Changbai mountains, Laoye and Zhangguangcai mountains, Wanda mountains and the low and middle areas of the lesser Xing'an mountains in northeast China. The coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forests dominated by Chinese hemlock are distributed in the forest area of subalpine and middle mountains in southwest China.

Warm coniferous forests are distributed in the subtropical low mountains, hilly and plain areas, covering a total area of 15.04 million ha. There are two types of forests, namely deciduous coniferous forests and evergreen coniferous forests. Among which the deciduous coniferous forests are mainly distributed in Sichuan, Hunan, and Hubei Provinces and the evergreen coniferous forests grow northward in the areas of Qinling mountains, Funiu mountain and Huaihe River, southward in the areas of Baise city of Guangxi Autonomous Region, and Leizhou peninsula of Guangdong Province, westward in the areas of Qingyi River basin in Sichuan Province, and eastward in the areas of T aiwan Province.

Deciduous broad -leaved forests are distributed in northern temperate zone, covering an area of about 47.58 million ha. They consist of typical deciduous broad-leaved forests, mountainous poplar and birch forests and riparian deciduous broad-leaved forests. Among which typical deciduous broad-leaved forests are distributed in northeast and north China. Mountainous poplar and birch forests are widespread in the areas of northeast north, northwest and southwest China, while riparian deciduous forests can mostly be found along both sides of the rivers in the temperate zone with significant climate change.

Evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forests are distributed in the northern part of subtropical region. The area of the mixed forests is about 7.74 million hectares. There are three vegetation subtypes including deciduous and evergreen broad-leaved mixed forests, mountainous evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forests, and limestone evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved mixed forests. which are distributed northward in the areas of Qinling mountains and Huaihe River, and stretch southward throughout the subtropical zone of the country.

Evergreen broad-leaved forests are distributed in the subtropical region of China, covering about 13.45 million ha. They are mainly distributed in the areas of the south slope of Qinling mountains, Hengduan mountains, Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, and low mountains, hilly and plain areas of Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces (Autonomous Region), the southern part of Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces as well as East China Sea islands and the northern part of Taiwan Province. Sclerophyllous evergreen broad-leaved forests are located in the southeast line of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in the western and southwestern subtropical region and in the areas of Hengduan mountains, covering about 2.12 million ha . They are mainly distributed in the areas of Sichuan. Yunnan. Guizhou Provinces and Tibet Autonomous Region.

Monsoon forests grow in the tropical zone where the wet and dry seasons alternate periodically, covering about 0.22 million ha. They are distributed in the tropical region of six provinces (autonomous regions) of Taiwan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Hainan and Tibet.

Rainforests are composed of tall and evergreen species in the high temperature and rainy tropical regions, covering about 0.59 million ha, and they can be found in Hainan Province, the southern part of Taiwan, Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces (Autonomous Region) and the southeastern part of Tibet Autonomous Region.

National Forest lnventory

Since the 1970s of last century, China has established the continuous national forest inventory (NFI) system at an interval of five years. The internationally recognized continuous forest inventory methods have been introduced and used in the system. With the province (autonomous region/municipality) as a population, 415,000 ground permanent sample plots and 2,844,400 remote sensing plots are re-surveyed once in every five years to measure and record relevant indicators showing the quantity, quality and structure of forest resources, forest ecological conditions, forest functions and benefits. The data on forest resources status and dynamic changes are consequently collected to evaluate the ecological status of forest resources and forest functions and benefits at the national and provincial levels.

The National Forest Inventory is arranged in a unified manner by the State Forestry Administration (SFA) and is specially organized and implemented by the Department of Forest Resources Management of the State Forestry Administration. The competent forestry authorities at the provincial level are responsible for conducting their field work. The regional forest resources monitoring centers of the State Forestry Administration are responsible for providing technical guidance, quality control, statistical analysis and results preparation. By the year of 2013, a total of eight NFIs had been accomplished. With constant improvement of monitoring contents, optimization of survey methods and application of advanced technologies including remote sensing and GIS, China has achieved remarkable results in the National Forest Inventory and has gained the lead in the world's similar forest inventory systems. The results of NFIs have provided an important basis for developing forestry in a scientific way, formulating timely and adjusting forestry policies, and promoting economic and social development in China.

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