Golden Pheasant.

Reforestation efforts bring back hundreds of species to China

China’s reforesting, and their efforts are bringing back species that had previously disappeared from the country’s lands.

Golden Pheasant.

The golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus). Image credits Petr Kratochvil.

For the past few decades, China has been pursuing an ambitious project — to increase the amount of land covered by forests to 23% of the country’s total land area by 2020.

Not only is this good news for Chinese nationals, who have been struggling with the country’s notoriously high levels of pollution, but also its wildlife. The resurgent forests are bringing back species to Chinese habitats from which they were previously considered extinct, report researchers from the Beijing Normal University (yes, that really is their name).

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Using infrared cameras hidden in the Ziwuling Forest Area in Yan’an, Shannxi province, northwestern China, the team documented the presence of several rare species previously thought extinct in the area. The observations are quite encouraging, spotting the largest population of North-Chinese leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) ever recorded in the region.

Other notable appearances include the golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) — a species that has established populations around the world — foxes, and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). Reforestation projects have been underway around Yan’an since 1998.

“The nature reserve has a large population of wild boars and roe deer, as well as small and medium-sized carnivorous animals such as ocelots and red foxes,” Feng Limin Feng, associate professor from Beijing Normal University, told China Plus.

Overall, the team has documented 263 different species in the area. Eight of these are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN’s Red List, and 29 others are listed as threatened. Such a diverse ecosystem is a major leap forward for the area, traditionally devastated by logging and deforestation.

“If it was not for environmental protection we’ve undertaken, it’s likely none of these animals would have survived,” Feng adds.

The reforestation efforts are part of China’s larger drive to improve environmental protection and combat climate change.

As we’ve written earlier today, climate change and habitat erosion together pose a massive threat to the viability of Earth’s ecosystems. I’m glad to see China tackling the issue from the roots up.

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