China’s Fragile Forests

A young boy in a cowboy hat looks out onto one of the many lakes that make up the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in northern Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.

Natural forests cover about 10 percent of China, but few of these forests remain in a primary or pristine condition.

China’s forests are threatened primarily by timber collection, mining, unregulated harvesting of flora for traditional Chinese medicine and excessive development related to increased tourism. Reforestation efforts by authorities have also caused the proliferation of mono-culture forests, which have hampered forest recovery and negatively affected biodiversity.

In 2011, the UN’s “International Year of Forests,” the forests of the southwest of China were classified by Conservation International as one of the world’s ten most threatened forest regions.

This is the third chapter in a long-term body of work focusing on China’s environmental crises in the early 21st Century. The previous two have focused on increasing desertification and on disappearing wetlands.

You can view Gallagher's accompanying slideshow at Burn Magazine.