Reforestation is a critical means of addressing the environmental and social problems of deforestation. China's Grain-for-Green Program (GFGP) is the world's largest reforestation scheme. Here we provide the first nationwide assessment of the tree composition of GFGP forests and the first combined ecological and economic study aimed at understanding GFGP's biodiversity implications. Across China, GFGP forests are overwhelmingly monocultures or compositionally simple mixed forests. Focusing on birds and bees in Sichuan Province, we find that GFGP reforestation results in modest gains (via mixed forest) and losses (via monocultures) of bird diversity, along with major losses of bee diversity. Moreover, all current modes of GFGP reforestation fall short of restoring biodiversity to levels approximating native forests. However, even within existing modes of reforestation, GFGP can achieve greater biodiversity gains by promoting mixed forests over monocultures; doing so is unlikely to entail major opportunity costs or pose unforeseen economic risks to households.
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Hua F, Wang X, Zheng X, Fisher B, Wang L, Zhu J, Tang Y, Douglas WY, Wilcove DS. Opportunities for biodiversity gains under the world’s largest reforestation programme. Nature Communications. 2016 Sep 6;7(1):1-1.