Perspectives of plantation forests in the sustainable forest development of China.
Modern forestry is gradually moving towards man-made forests on a large scale. Plantations with advanced forestry system have been introduced with the goal of sustainable forestry development and to enhance social, ecological, and economic benefits. Forest plantations with native and exotic species have been established in China and worldwide with shorter rotation cycles than natural forests. In this paper, we discuss the role and perspectives of plantation forests in the Chinese sustainable forest development, the evolution of various plantation programs, the ecological effects of plantations, and the measures to improve plantation forestry. The Chinese government has given substantial importance to nurturing plantation forest resources through various large scale afforestation programs. In 2019, the total area covered by plantations in China reached 79.54 million ha, with a stock volume of 3.39 billion m3 (59.30 m3 per ha); coniferous forests (26.11 million ha, 32.83%) and broad-leaved forests (26.45 million ha, 33.25%) are the dominant types. Plantations have been primarily distributed in the central and southern parts of the country. Plantations with fast-growing and high-yielding tree species facilitated Chinese afforestation activities and improved the administration of forest production, which effectively boosted the forest industry. Plantation forest resources offer many potential productive, economic, and social advantages, though they are also associated with a loss of biodiversity and climate change makes them likely susceptible to disease and insect attack. Appropriate forest management practices during planning, execution, and maintenance of plantations can contribute to the conservation, promotion, and restoration of biodiversity, with the final aim of attaining a balance between having forest plantations and natural forests.