China, one of the largest economies in Asia, has practiced forest restoration and sustainable forest management in the field for years. During the past decades many good practices were generated, practices that now can be further improved upon. For example, while previously the government has successfully conducted large-scale afforestation programs in many parts of China, some, especially the very early ones, at times lacked adaptation to local conditions or extreme environments.
From the very beginning APFNet has supported the Chinese government in improving forest restoration and management both on a technical but also livelihood level. In 2011, APFNet launched its first demonstration project in Wangyedian, Inner Mongolia, aiming to establish multi-functional forests under close-to-nature forest management. This, however, was only the first of many projects in China, as the economy is so large that one demonstration project could not possibly reflect the intricacies and local conditions of the different provinces and more importantly ecosystems. Soon others located in Yunnan, Anhui, Zhejiang and Beijing followed, covering a range of ecosystems from tropical forests to land threatened by desertification. Given the multitude of lessons learned throughout the past 7 years, it was time to bring these pioneers together and enable them to share their experiences with each other.
Thus from 17 to 20 June 2018 APFNet conducted the “Forest Rehabilitation in China & APFNet Project Achievements-Sharing Session” at the APFNet-funded Multi-Functional Forestry Experiment and Training Center in Wangyedian, Inner Mongolia. 28 participants responsible for six different APFNet projects participated in the meeting, which was chaired my Mr. Zhao Shucong, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of APFNet and Dr. Lu De, the Executive Director of APFNet. Mr. Zhao emphasized: “APFNet’s China projects need to align with our mission, but also flexibly respond to the emerging demands people have on forests. Even more importantly, all projects should be replicable and scalable.”
On the first day they introduced their respective projects that focused on topics like forest restoration, desertification mitigation and remediation, watershed management, ecotourism, multi-functional forestry, sustainable forest management, and forest monitoring. This was followed by a roundtable discussion which enabled participants to share how they overcome economy-specific challenges.
Fig. 1 Mr. Chen Mingchuan explains how yellow horn can be used in multiple ways
Fig. 2 Representatives from all APFNet China Projects joined the meeting in Wangyedian, Inner Mongolia
On day 2 participants went to Aohanqi, Inner Mongolia, to learn about the desertification mitigation methods applied there in the “Demonstration of vegetation restoration and management and utilization of forest resources in the Greater Central Asia” project, which started in January 2017 and will go on until December 2019. Mr. Chen Mingchuan, the Aohanqi Forest Farm Director highlighted the difficult conditions under which reforestation is achieved here and the lessons learned previously. “Decades ago we would plant poplar here due to the low cost and ease of establishing them, however most of them died soon as they were not adapted to the local conditions here. Now we use local drought-resistant species like yellow horn, mountain apricot or Mongolian scotch pine that have much higher long-term survival rates.” Many participants pointed out how impressive the results were, especially considering that a strong livelihood component was integrated into the project (e.g. many parts of yellow horn can be used commercially).
Fig. 3 Monkey head mushrooms are one of the mushrooms commercially grown at Wangyedian to increase local livelihoods
On the last day different project sites around Wangyedian, which is less arid and hosts species such as larch, birch and walnut, were introduced. The focus here was on creating mixed forests and using close-to-nature forest management to maximize the future value of the historic larch plantations on the forest farm. Some of the tools utilized included thinnings of different strengths, interplanting, fencing and weeding. One of the livelihood components that have proven a large success in the past years was the commercial mushroom farming, including the cultivation of wood-ear mushroom, monkey head mushroom and shiitake.
Overall the participants had both during the sharing session and field trips many opportunities to learn from each other and be even more effective in their projects in the future.