A comprehensive set of 30-m resolution land coverage data of 2000 and 2010 was used for an analysis of the spatial heterogeneity of forest area change in early 21st century China. Four regression models were built to determine the current situation of the ‘forest transition’ in China. The results show that forest area in China has grown rapidly over this period such that total forest area has increased by 102,500 km2
and forest cover has increased by 1.06%. Our results demonstrate the presence of a ‘U-shaped’ relationship, the so-called ‘forest transition’, between forest area change and per capita gross domestic product (GDP). We estimate that the inflection point in the Chinese ‘forest transition’ will be at a per capita GDP of 50,522 yuan. In the future, regions with lower elevations, or slope, should be the focus of attention because of dramatic recent forest changes. In particular, forest areas in the regions of the Xiaoxing’anling-Changbaishan Mountains and in South China have markedly decreased, and these are areas of concern. In the meantime, the government needs to strengthen the management of large-scale interconversions between forest and grassland.
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