Yunnan: Only 9% of the Forest Is Primary Forest

Press release - 2013-01-30
Greenpeace has published its latest report "Yunnan Natural Forests in Crisis". According to the report, in the Southern Chinese province of Yunnan, the quality of natural forests is much lower than originally thought. Only 9% of the total is primary forest. A massive area of natural forests has clearly been cut and then converted into plantations.

Greenpeace calls on the Yunnan provincial government and the forestry department to adjust the policy to protect the primary forests, to close the gaps on the conversion policies, and to tighten up the supervision of them, and finally ensure the ecological security of southwest China.

“Primary forests make Yunnan a hotspot of biodiversity for the world. Although some forests in areas such as Xishuangbanna are well preserved in line with the relevant laws and regulations, those in other areas are being destructed and converted. Therefore prompt action for preservation is needed,” says Wu Hao, Greenpeace Forests Campaigner.

Via remote sensing interpretation, spatial analysis, and field trips, Greenpeace found that only 9% of the forests in Yunnan are primary forests, about one quarter of the world’s average. Moreover, most of them are scattered in complex terrains and less traversed places, such as Gaoligong Mountain, Nujiang Valley, and Xishuangbanna.

Furthermore, Greenpeace found that a large area of the primary forests surrounding the National Reserve of Gaoligong Mountain - one of the most biologically diverse areas in China – have been logged because of highway construction, which poses great threats to the unique habitats of the White-Browed Gibbon (Hylobates hoolock).

“Currently, there are less than 100 White-Browed Gibbons in China. According to plans, a highway will be built across the core area of Gaoligong Reserve during the second phase of construction. It will certainly be detrimental to the biodiversity in that area,” says Wu Hao. “The destruction and fragmentation of these primary forests will lead to a rapid decrease in the number of species. We must step in on time; otherwise, one quarter of the species in Yunnan could be extinct by the end of the century.”

The current policy to reconstruct low-function forests in Yunnan has several loopholes. Vast tracts of the natural forest have been categorized as low-function, and thus have been cut and replaced by plantations based on that policy. Greenpeace found that clear cutting and conversion are the main tactics for reconstruction in Tengchong County, Baoshan, and many of the high-quality natural forests have vanished and been converted into plantation. Such tactics are highly destructive to the local ecological environment.

“Some local governments in Yunnan have not set the standards of low-function forests with reality, and there is huge room for improvement in terms of management and supervision. The conversion creates short-term economic benefits, and sacrifice long-term ecological benefits,” says Wu Hao. “The twelfth five-year plan for forestry development states that there should be clear specifications for low-function forests, and that strict control on conversion of natural forests into plantation should be in place. Evidently some local authorities have not worked in line with this statement.”

Greenpeace calls on local governments in Yunnan to draw the baseline map for the primary forests and issue a protection plan, as well as to write the line: "end clear cutting of natural forests and no conversion of natural forests into plantation" into the policy "Plan of Reconstruction of Low-function Forests in Yunnan 2010-2012". Campaigners also ask for an improvement of management and supervision, which will lead to better preservation of the natural forests in Yunnan.