Documentation:Open Case Studies/FRST522/Evaluation of the impacts of urban forest in Beijing China

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Evaluation of the impacts of urban forest in Beijing, China


The location of Beijing


Beijing, the capital of China (the People’s Republic of China), which is located in a transitional plant zone between South and North in China. Beijing City with over 13 million individuals holds a unique title of a direct-controlled municipality under the direct control of the Chinese government. The rapid economic growth and urbanization accompanied by severer air pollution, which is a threat to the health of Beijing dewellers. Under such circumstance, the Beijing urban forest plays an essential role in improving this city's environment. In Beijing City, the forestry coverage only accounts for 0.6% (104 km2) of the total area, which is approximate 16,808 km2. Based on the geographic location of Beijing, where is warm-temperate zone, deciduous broad-leaved forest takes up the most forestry area with much less coniferous forest in this region[1]. The Beijing dominated tree species include Pinus tabuliformis, Quercus spp., Acer spp., Koelreuteria paniculata, Vitex negundo var. heterophylla, Spiraea spp., Themeda japonica, and Lespedeza spp[2].


Huang defined the urban forest as the tree population grows in the urban area with plants that can grow in the understory[3].

o Feng shui (wind and water in English) is the traditional idea regarding the forest to create harmony between nature and human, which is derived from 4000 BC and related to metaphysics in China[4].

o At the early of the 20th century, some Chinese environmental experts who studied abroad and introduced the concept of modern forestry to China attempted to build forests surrounding Beijing[5].

o In 1949, the new Chinese government proposed to launch the afforestation project both in the remote areas and the region near cities. There is no exception in Beijing. In order to conserve water and soil as well as provide recreation for city's residents, the municipal government constructed many plantations in Beijing[5].

o In the 1980s, modern urban forests started in China. During this period, the Chinese and municipal governments only focus on recreational activities and environmental conservation[4] [5].

o In the 1990s, the Chineses government regarded the long-term planning of urban forestry as a part of a strategy for national development [6].

o The 21st century, Chinese started to recognize the nature-human-urban forest interactions[4].

o In 2013, Beijing Forestry Bureau would establish over 10 urban forests, covering approximate 23,000 hectares in response to the national call for the reduction of severe smog in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region[7].


Tenure arrangements

Even though the state government owns all lands and forests in China forever, the tenure arrangements of Beijing urban forests are authorized to farmers or private companies according to the different types of urban forests[8].

Table 1. The tenure arrangements of different types of urban forests in Beijing.

Type of Beijing urban forests Holders Purpose of forests Nature of tenure
The forests located in a mountainous area in the outer suburbs The state or Beijing municipal government 1. Ecological: conservation to prevent soil erosion; 2. Economic: establishment of orchards to obtain profits The state or Beijing municipal government freehold these forests with the infinite duration until essential reforms of forests' tenure occur[9].
The forests located in suburban plain regions Farmers or orchardists Preventing farms or orchards from damaging by sandstorms[9] 1. For members of the collective economic organizations, they can get 30-70 years of forest's tenure through the Law of Rural Land Contract of People's Republic of China. 2. According to the Contract Law of People's Republic of China, the non-members of the collective economic organizations can maintain the tenure less than 20 years.
The green belts The state or Beijing municipal government Environmental improvement (e.g. absorption of noise, automobile exhaust) The state or Beijing municipal government freehold these forests with the infinite duration until essential reforms of forests' tenure occur[9].
The forests in residential areas or public parks 1. The developers of houses; 2. the state government Improvement of the neighborhood’s environment to make more profits when selling houses or apartments. 1. The developers of houses take control of the urban forests in separate residential areas by freehold for approximate 70 years. 2. The state government freehold these forests in national parks with the infinite duration until essential reforms of forests' tenure occur

Administrative arrangements

Institution/ individuals Management authority Reporting system
Chinese government The state government can Legislate corresponding laws and regulations for Beijing urban forests officially. It needs to report to People's Congress to obtain approval.
Beijing Forestry Bureau It is responsible for approval of informal regulations and management of Beijing urban forests; it should follow the command proposed by State Forestry Administration of the People's Republic of China. The institution should directly report to State Forestry Administration of the People's Republic of China.
City Government's Municipal Gardening and Landscape Administration It has the power to judge the removal, cutting, and pruning of trees in Beijing. It also can give authority to the Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening. Their applications need reporting to Beijing Forestry Bureau directly.
Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening It has consulted power to deliver expert advice to regulations of Beijing Urban forests. It belongs to City Government's Municipal Gardening and Landscape Administration.
City Planting Office It can decide the composition of planted tree species with the consultation from the planting bureaus. It has to report to Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening when releasing decision.
The planting bureaus There are two types of the planting bureaus. 1. the district planting bureaus take responsibility for small trees and lanes; 2. the City Parks Bureau manages trees in larger streets and parks They should get permission from the City Planting Office. They need to report to both Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening as well as the City Planting Office.
Beijing dwellers They can remove diseased or damaged trees by themselves or pay for the Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening to do so with the granted permission. The reporting system for residents is the Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening[8].

Social Actors

Affected Stakeholders

The affected stakeholders in the case are Beijing inhabitants. Although they lack ownership of private lands and forests, the residents always pay high attention to urban forests and appreciate trees. Generally, their objectives are to improve their living environment and enrich their daily life by the expansion of the forests in their residence and recreational parks. Nevertheless, they have no power to decide where to plant forests or to expand forest coverage, on account of that government organizations take control of all urban forests in Beijing. There are some conflicts between dwellers' action and laws, such as the construction of storage sheds under large trees without sanction[8].

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Social actors (stakeholders, user groups) who are interested stakeholders, outside the community, their main relevant objectives, and their relative power







A discussion of the aims and intentions of the community forestry project and your assessment of relative successes or failures. You should also include a discussion of critical issues or conflicts in this community and how they are being managed

Power Assessment

Social actors Power Interest How to apply power
Beijing dwellers Low Moderate-high Even though they lack the ownership of land and forests, they take care and appreciate trees. The residents can remove a disease or damage tree under the granted permission by the Institute of Landscape and Gardening.
Chinese government The highest Moderate-high The state government owns all lands in Beijing, including all urban forests in streets, public parks, temples, and Palace. The Beijing Forestry Bureau and Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening protocol regulations of urban forests unofficially. Subsequently, they can request the approval by the People's Congress. Thus, the state government is the final driver of all laws and regulations.
Beijing Forestry Bureau Very high The highest The Beijing Forestry Bureau has rights to approve the regulations of Beijing urban forests. the government organization declared that the trees which are "taller than a building," or over 100-year-old cannot be removed.
City Government's Municipal Gardening and Landscape Administration Moderate-high High City Government's Municipal Gardening and Landscape Administration has right to judge whether the trees should be moved. For instance, this administration agrees that fewer than 10 trees in one location are to be removed.
The planting bureaus Moderate-high Moderate-high (Very high especially in their manipulated regions The bureaus take control of tree maintenance. However, the removal, cutting, and pruning of trees must be permitted by the city's Central Planting Office, who obtain the advice from the Beijing Institute of Landscape and Gardening[8].
Citizens from other cities The lowest The lowest They can monitor and give feedback about the management of urban forests to the administration listed above
The power assessment of social actors about the urban forest in Beijing


  • To plant more trees in Beijing(the current quantity of trees is still too small to provide significant air pollution removal)

In China, the primary obstacle to urban forest's development is the insufficient funds, due to these forests cannot appeal to the private companies to invest under low financial returns directly. Based on this fact, Shanghai took the leading role to solve the restriction by providing the private companies with financial support to invest urban forests in Shanghai. The successful approach can also be introduced to Beijing. Beijing municipal government could proposal corresponding policies to offer compensation to the planting companies in Beijing to establish more urban forests[5].

  • To improve carbon sequestration and absorb more air pollutants in Beijing

Wu suggest to mix up shade-intolerant species, semi-shade tolerant species and shade-tolerant trees in the common growing places. The existing species composition in Beijing is not optimal for air pollutant removal and CO2 sequestration. This is because these tree species have a short lifespan. Thus, the evergreen trees will be more suitable to alleviate air pollution, because of the longer life of leaf retention. Meanwhile, the severe environment in Beijing requires tree species which can tolerant insects, drought, air pollutants, and highly compacted soil. [10]


  1. He, C., Convertino, M., Feng, Z., & Zhang, S. (2013). Using LiDAR data to measure the 3D green biomass of Beijing urban forest in China. PLoS ONE, 8(10), 1–12
  2. Ma, J., & Liu, Q. (2003). Flora of Beijing: an overview and suggestions for future research. Urban Habitats, 1(1), 30–44.
  3. Huang, C. D., Shao, Y., Liu, J. H., & Chen, J. S. (2007). Temporal analysis of urban forest in Beijing using Landsat imagery. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, 1, 1–12.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Chen, W. Y., & Wang, D. T. (2013). Urban forest development in China: Natural endowment or socioeconomic product? Cities, 35, 62–68.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Liu, Chunjiang., Shen, Xiaohui., Zhou, Pisheng., Che, Shengquan., & Zhang, Yanling. (2004). Urban forestry in China: status and prospects. Science, 15–17. 26–28.
  6. Gao, F. (2003). Development strategy of China urban forestry. Journal of Chinese Urban Forestry, 1, 12-13.
  7. Liu, Ranran. (2013). Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei to jointly reduce smog. CRIENGLISH, Retrieved from
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Profous, G. V. (1992). Trees and urban forestry in Beijing, China, 18, 145–154.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Jianming Cai, Tingting Hu, L. X. (2008). Urban forestry development in Beijing: a historical perspective. Science, 26–28.
  10. Wu, X., Yuan, J., Ma, S., Feng, S., Zhang, X., & Hu, D. (2015). The seasonal spatial pattern of soil respiration in a temperate urban forest in Beijing. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, 14(4), 1122–1130.

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This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST522.