Empowering Forests with Multiple Functions

Empowering Forests with Multiple Functions Ranging from Wood to Ecological Products and Services through Technical Innovation in Subtropical Forest Ecosystem Management

The 2020 National Science and Technology Award Conference was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 3, 2021 and a total of 264 project achievements were awarded, among which only two were from the forest sector. The interdisciplinary project – The Cornerstone Technology in Managing Typical Forest Ecosystems in Southern China for Multiple Functions and Its Application, led by Prof. Liu Shirong, President of Chinese Academy of Forestry (CAF) and Vice President of IUFRO, was awarded the second prize of the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award. The project involved the synergetic collaboration among CAF, Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Guangdong Academy of Forestry and Sichuan Academy of Forestry, and also benefited from the international collaboration in the knowledge and experience sharing with colleagues from Germany, USA and Canada through IUFRO networking.

Forests under appropriate and sustainable management constitute the core and solid foundation for national green development and eco-security. Large area of forests in southern China, both natural and planted, had been prone to degradation in their quality and functions and vulnerability to various disturbances, under warming climate, resulted from the exclusive pursuit of maximizing timber production through traditional monoculture practice using single tree species. For more than two decades, the project team led by Prof. Liu has been carrying out field investigation and trial experiments with diverse native tree species, in different management models and for multiple purposes in southern China, and has made the cornerstone technological innovations in managing forests for coordinated enhancement of a full range of services and functions given by forests, e.g. from wood production to carbon sequestration, soil fertility and productivity maintenance, water conservation, etc., while helping resilience for adaptation to climate change. The innovation of both philosophical and technical frameworks in forest management for multiple ecosystem functions, which translate and highlight the use of indigenous tree species with high ecological and economical values, has fueled the shift from purely targeting at wood to focusing on the holistic ecosystem services, quality and benefits and laid a milestone for upgrading forest management regime while promoting precise improvement in targeted forest quality in China.

The project developed the theorical framework for shaping the multi-functionality of forest ecosystems in the context of biodiversity and optimal combination of specific functional species and ecosystem functions and services, by which the technological innovation system for a multi-functional forest management were successfully established by introducing indigenous valuable tree species into monocultures of pine, Chinese fir and eucalyptus and by the combination of large-diameter timber cultivation based on ecological rotation cycle and well balanced trade-offs and synergetic coordination among diverse functions. These technical progresses have shortened the cultivation period of large-diameter timber of valuable species and increased their yield and carbon sequestration, while getting rid of soil degradation and long-term productivity decline. Also, the project developed appropriate technology for renovating secondary forests through re-introduction of key ecological functional species at a given successional stage, and the forest management planning system for addressing water-carbon trade-offs at multiple scales, which has provided effective solution to accelerate the rapid restoration of multiple functions of degraded secondary forests in southern China.

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