The partial cutting of trees in forest plantations can enrich the ecosystem, according to a joint research project by the National Science Council (NSC), the Council of Agriculture and several universities.
The research began in 2005 at the Forestry Bureau’s Japanese cedar forest plantation in the mountainous area of Nantou County.
Lin Kuo-chuan (林國銓), deputy director of the council’s Taiwan Forestry Research Institute and the convener of the project, said there are more than 2.1 million hectares of forest in Taiwan, accounting for about 58.5 percent of the nation’s land, of which forest plantations make up 20 percent, or 420,000 hectares.
“Annual wood consumption in Taiwan is about 8 million cubic meters and 99 percent of that is imported,” Lin said, adding that with a self-sufficiency rate lower than 1 percent, the forestry administration has the dilemma of how to balance conservation and economic production.
Lin said the research proved that cutting down some of the trees in very dense forest plantations allows more sunlight to shine through, providing more space for indigenous plant species to grow.
Also, the thinning treatment had no significant effect on soil erosion and even enriched the biodiversity in the area after three years, he said.
“We’ve always tried to bridge the gap between the ecosystem in natural forests and in forest plantations,” said King Hen-biau (金恆鑣), former director-general of the institute and a member of the research team.
Using a chess board as a metaphor, King said the trees in a forest plantation are like the pieces neatly arranged on the board and the board becomes activated when some pieces are taken away, just as the thinning treatment breathes new life into forest plantations.