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Extent and causes of forest cover changes in Vietnam's provinces 1993–2013: a review and analysis of official data
Within a region plagued by deforestation, Vietnam has experienced an exceptional turn-around from net forest loss to forest regrowth. This so-called ‘forest transition’, starting in the 1990s, resulted from major changes to environmental and economic policy. Investments in agricultural intensification, reforestation programs, and forestland privatization directly or indirectly promoted natural forest regeneration and the setting-up of plantation forests mainly stocked with exotic species. Forest cover changes, however, varied widely among regions due to specific socio-economic and environmental factors. We studied forest cover changes (including ‘natural’ and ‘planted’ forests) and associated drivers in Vietnam’s provinces in between 1993-2013. An exhaustive literature review was combined with multivariate statistical analyses of official provincial data. Natural forest regrowth was highest in northern mountain provinces, especially 1993-2003, whereas deforestation continued in the Central Highlands and Southeast Region. Forest plantations increased most in mid-elevation provinces. Statistical results largely confirmed case study-based literature, highlighting the importance of forestland allocation policies and agroforestry extension for promoting small-scale tree plantations and allowing natural forest regeneration in previously degraded areas. Results provide evidence for the abandonment of upland swidden agriculture 1993-2003, and reveal that spatial competition between expanding natural forests, fixed crop fields and tree plantations increased 2003-2013. While we identified a literature gap regarding effects of forest management by para-statal forestry organizations, statistical results showed that natural forests increased in areas managed for protection/regeneration. Cover of other forests under the organizations’ management, however, tended to decrease or stagnate, especially more recently when the organizations increasingly turned to multi-purpose plantation forestry. Deforestation processes in the Central Highlands and Southeast Region were mainly driven by cash crop expansion (coffee, rubber) and associated immigration and population growth. Recent data trends indicated limits to further forest expansion, and logging within high-quality natural forests reportedly remained a widespread problem. New schemes for ‘payments for forest environmental services’ should be strengthened to consolidate the gains from the ‘forest transition’, whilst improving forest quality (in terms of biodiversity and environmental services), and allowing local people to actively participate in forest management.
transition forestière, politiques d’attribution des terres, programmes de reboisement, plantations à petite échelle, organisations forestières, cultures itinérantes
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