An interview with Li Wenhua, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering

BEIJING, September 20 (reports Shang Wenbo) –At the first forestry minister meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation after President Hu Jintao delivered a speech “Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Green Growth” on September 6, Li Wenhua, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and professor of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, accepted an exclusive interview.

Li said President Hu Jintao made three proposals on regional forestry development and cooperation, which are of great significance to China’s forestry construction and to international cooperation in forestry among the members of the APEC forum. He said he, as a researcher in the forest ecology, was greatly encouraged and also felt a sense of urgency and responsibility. The government pays high attention to forestry and has adopted a series of measures and policies to promote forestry development.

China is still facing a big challenge in ecological protection. China’s diversified natural conditions offer favorable environment for the growth and cultivation of different types of forests. But, as the most populous nation, China still lacks of forest resources and the fragile ecological system still constrains the sustainable development. To increase the quantity and quality of forest resources, a complete system for forest protection and cultivation is needed.

At the same time, Li said, the government should work to improve the chain for forest cultivation, including fine varieties of trees, suitable places and time for tree planting, forest management, forest regeneration, recycled utilization, energy reduction and emissions control. Special attention should be paid to the breeding and cultivation of fine varieties of trees, because it is the precondition for forestry construction. Local fine varieties of trees and imports of foreign tree strains are equally important, and traditional and conventional techniques and new and high-tech technologies should be applied simultaneously to develop the forestry science system with Chinese characteristics.

On forest cultivation and afforestation, Li said that natural conditions, terrains, water, vegetation and local economic conditions should be taken into consideration for biodiversity. Forest management and regeneration should follow the principles of sustainable forest development. Scientific, rational and positive breeding and cultivation could not only increase the economic returns of forests, but also help reduce the risks of plant diseases, insects and forest fires.

In recent years, China’s forestry developed fast. Li said it is an urgent task to balance the forest growth and improvement of people’s living standards. Models of mixed forest land – with poultry, animal, fruit, medicine, fungi, vegetable and grain – should be actively explored to expand the industrial chain of the forest industry. In addition, forests not only generate timber, fiber, fuel and medicine, but also are important part of an ecological system – water and soil conservation, protection of water source, carbon reduction and oxygen generation, adjustment to the climate and biodiversity.

According to estimates by the Chinese Academy of Forestry, total carbon reserves of China’s forest resources are 7.811 billion tons, the forest system can conserve 494.766 billion cubic meters of water each year and 7.035 billion tons of soil. The system can conserve 364 million tons of fertilizer, absorb 32 million tons of air pollutants, and block dusts of 5.001 billion tons each year. The annual output value of its functions – absorbing carbon and releasing oxygen, water and soil conservation, air purification, accumulation of nutritious elements and biodiversity – could amount to 10.01 trillion yuan a year.

At present, natural forests and ecological forests are mainly for the purposes of ecological and social benefits, and are not intended for economic returns. Residents living in such forest areas sacrificed their opportunities for development and wealth. Li said it is necessary to compensate them so as to stimulate their enthusiasm for forest protection.

Li urged that the relationships between development and protection, and between industry and ecology should be appropriately handled. The roles of forests in economy, society, ecology and culture should be tapped in a harmonious manner. Li said it is necessary to utilize forest resources, develop forest industry, grow the green economy, increase employment and reduce poverty, but it is also equally important to strengthen the protection of biodiversity, conserve water, increase the forests’ functions in absorbing carbon emissions and protection regional and global ecological safety.
With the rising of the global ecological issue and the acceleration of global economic integration, forestry is also undergoing changes. It is time to deepen regional cooperation, strengthen cooperation and exchanges in science and technology, and to tap the domestic and international resources and markets.