Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taiwan's newest forests (China Post)

Interest in and concern for the world's forests has never been greater. Trees are seen as important weapons in the fight against global warming because they absorb carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas.

How much trees really help to combat climate change is unclear, however. Woodlands may or may not have a higher albedo (the tendency to reflect sunlight back out into space) than built-up areas or plots of bare soil. Moreover, different species sequester carbon at very different rates.

Before his election victory, Ma Ying-jeou promised he would push for an eight-year, 60,000-hectare lowland afforestation project. This would represent a massive expansion of existing lowland tree-planting efforts. Between 2001 and 2007, around 10,000 hectares of flat land was afforested.

Previous afforestation efforts concentrated on vulnerable slopelands, the goals being soil and water conservation and landslide prevention. Mature trees can draw up 100 liters of water in the first hour after a thunderstorm, and this ability to store water is especially important for Taiwan. The island receives far more rain per square kilometer than most of the world, but in terms of rainfall per capita, it gets less than one-sixth of the global average.

The entire article is on the China Post's website in two parts, Page 1 and Page 2. Almost a year ago, I did a much longer, more general article on Taiwan's forests for the Taiwan Review.

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