March 18-24, 2013
Experts evaluate government’s reforestation policies
Reported by Simon Lin
Written by Lydia Ma
March 12 is National Tree Planting Day in Taiwan and the government usually spends a lot of money on this day to raise awareness and encourage citizens to plant trees because trees can absorb carbon emissions. However, environmental organizations such as the Citizens of the Earth Taiwan Foundation have discovered that the government’s tree-planting policies in the past 10 years are misguided. They claim that these policies that allow big trees to be cut down as long as they are replaced by small plants or foreign plants are not only ineffective, but also harmful to the environment and conducive to worse landslides. These experts say that the soil has its own natural and effective ways of healing itself and Taiwanese mountains and forests don’t need artificial reforestation.
“If we’d only give nature some time, forests will come back to us in their own time,” said Yang Kuo-chen, Taiwan Academy of Ecology CEO. He added that forests and trees use natural mechanisms such as winds and animals to disseminate seeds. Yang explained that herbal plants are the first to grow out of the grown after seeds germinate. Following this, small to medium sized trees will cover the ground. Finally, bigger and stronger trees will emerge to create a forest.
Environmental protection agencies used an example to illustrate their findings on the superiority of natural reforestation. They said that an 8-hectare parcel of land in Shenkeng Village, Chiayi County, was once used to grow betel nuts for as long as 40 years. However, 20 years ago, the owner hoped to leave a good legacy for his descendants and discontinued his family business of growing betel nuts on that land. He decided to leave the land barren and see what would come of it. To his surprise, a few years after the land was left barren, little plants began to sprout out and in less than 10 years, the parcel of land that had once been barren became a dense forest. This story testifies that nature is able to restore itself and now serves as nature’s classroom for many people who go there to observe. Yang hopes that it will become a live classroom or base for research and study in the future, helping Taiwanese to better understand the environment.
Citizens of the Earth Foundation urged the government to reflect on the reason why it wants to create forests and to separate forests it wants to develop for conservation purposes and those it wants to develop for economic purposes. The organization hopes that only the latter will employ artificial reforestation.
The Citizens of the Earth Foundation compares photos of natural and artificial forests.
Photo provided by the Citizens of the Earth Foundation.