Biodiversity implications of the Pearl River Basin CDM project in China

This section is a case study of the first A/R CDM project to be registered by the UNFCCC 'Facilitating reforestation for Guangxi watershed management in the Pearl River basin'. The source of the material is the project design document, available online (UNFCCC, 2008b).

The project is located in Cangwa County, which has a subtropical monsoon climate, and Huanjiang County, with a cooler transitional monsoon climate, of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. The project area is surrounded by dense human settlement, ten townships and 27 villages being involved in the project.

The original forest lands have been severely degraded and are now low-productivity barren lands with grass or shrubs that continue to degrade. The area has suffered large-scale deforestation since 1950, and has been overused for fuelwood, overgrazed and subject to frequent fire. Even though cattle grazing has ceased, the forest will not regenerate naturally because seed sources are some distance away, and in any case seedlings suffer severe competition from grasses.

Although few protected flora and fauna species are found within the project boundary, the region is one of the richest in China in terms of plant diversity. In the project area the forest is mainly tropical evergreen broadleaf with over 300 tree species from 66 families in fragmented remnants. Close to the project area, in Hunajiang County, are two nature reserves: the Mulun Reserve and Jiuwandashan Reserve, which contain more than 3000 vascular plants. The reserves harbor many threatened species, including the Assamese Macaque (Macacca assamensis), Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus), Chinese Forest Musk Deer (Moschus bere-zovskii), White-necklaced Partridge (Arborophila gingica) and the Burmese Python (Python molurus).The Daguishan Forest Park bordering the project area in Cangwu County contains about 1000 plant species and important fauna, including the Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and Eliot's Pheasant (Syrmaticus ellioti).

In the project five native tree species will be planted in pairs of species on 6000 hectares and Eucalyptus spp. will be planted on 2000 hectares. The carbon content of the plantations will be measured and will generate Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) for sale. Local farmers and communities would not be able to implement such a project without the CER revenues generated, given the investment and technical barriers and the market risks involved. Additional benefits are to be generated by resin collection from Pinus massoniana from 16 years, Liquidambar formosana and Schima superba will be harvested for timber at around 17 years and replanted, while Quercus spp. and Eucalyptus spp. will be harvested at around 10 and 7 years respectively and will regenerate naturally.

The project document claims that wildlife corridors are provided between forest remnants and national reserves. The use of native species and avoidance of large areas of monocultures are said to enhance the connectivity potential of the corridors between two national reserves. It claims that habitat for birds, mammals and snakes will be provided as well as roosting sites for migratory birds. Importantly, by generating increased income of local communities it is said that the project will reduce the key threats to the nature reserves of poaching and the removal of timber and forest products.

If the biodiversity claims of this project are subjected to critical analysis, the following conclusions can be reached that suggest that the project will make only a very limited contribution to biodiversity:

• There will be little addition to habitat as such, as the species mixture is very narrow, being chosen primarily to provide an economic return.

• It is not expected that native species will form an understory of native shrubs as the plantations will be managed for their economic benefits, competing trees being removed in the process of weed control. In any case, the design document considers that the reserves are too far distant to serve as a seed source for natural regeneration.

• Evidence that the proposed corridors will be used by the threatened and rare species in the reserves and national parks is not produced.

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