Rethinking the relationship between forests and other land uses

Figure 1: The comparison photos in Hetian village in Changting. The top picture is taken in 2000 and the bottom picture is taken in 2009.

Figure 1: The comparison photos in Hetian village in Changting. The top picture is taken in 2000
and the bottom picture is taken in 2009.

The relationship and interaction between forests and other land uses are interesting and attract many scholars from diverse disciplines. Although there are quite a lot of distinctive and exciting findings in this area, there remain underdeveloped aspects that prevent a full appreciation of the complexity of the phenomenon.

We carried on a study on forest transition in Changting County of Fujian Province in China since 2012. It is acknowledged that China achieved great success in reforesting the country in the last few decades. Changting County, located in the southwest of the Fujian province, is a good example to study the complex drivers to the dynamics of forest and other land use change. Forests in Changting were destructed heavily before 1980s and caused severe ecological problems like water and soil erosion. Since the mid 1980s, in line with the overall situation in China, especially after 2000, Changting embarked on a process of forest transition (see Figure 1).

We collect the data through official statistic database, structural questionnaire survey, key informant interview and group interview. The data analysis methods include econometric analysis, text analysis and case study.

Figure 2: The harmonious development of forests and agriculture in Changting.

Figure 2: The harmonious development of forests and agriculture in Changting.

Our study indicates that the relationship and interaction between forests and other land use vary through different economic development phases. At the initial phase of economic development, forests and other land uses compete with each other. For example, Changting expands the cultivated land and ranches through deforestation before 1980s. However, with the economic development, the agricultural intensification and reforestation achieved harmonious development in Changting (see Figure 2).

There are mainly two reasons for this according to our research. First, before the industries developed in Changting, the labors can only be allocated to the natural resources for the sake of livelihoods. A large amount of labors are allocated to logging in Changting before 1980s to get firewood for subsistence or trade. Second, the development of agricultural intensification after 1990s makes it less economic attractive in logging and collecting firewood. The opportunity cost of logging raises quickly, and farmers can obtain a high income in intensive agriculture.

In developing countries with rapid economic development like China, the relationship between forests and other land uses are also affected by the overall economic development. For example in China, large amount of labor migrations from less developed inland China to developed coastal China, has mitigate the tension between forests and other land uses in inland China where has most abundant natural resources such as forests. We can find many interesting evidence in Changting as it locates in eastern coastal province, and at the same time an inland less developed county.

Blogpost and pictures submitted by Li Lingchao (Renmin University, China) – ytlilingchao(at)126.com

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as entry #61 of our #Forests2015 blog competition. It is submitted in the “Open” category.

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One thought on “Rethinking the relationship between forests and other land uses

  1. Learn to combine the use of the land, among agricloas crops and forestry. It is one of the methodologies higher priority in countries where the deserificacion by wind and drought and water erosion by runoff, are a constant threa

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