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Telecoupling science shows China's forest sustainability packs global impact
Date:12/19/2013

As China increases its forests, a Michigan State University (MSU) sustainability scholar proposes a new way to answer the question: if a tree doesn't fall in China, can you hear it elsewhere in the world?

In this week's journal Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, MSU's University Distinguished Professor Jianguo "Jack" Liu dissects the global impact of China's struggle to preserve and expand its forests even as its cities and population balloon.

Because China's supersized global role makes each domestic decision a world event, Liu shows how China's efforts to sustain forests influence other countries, and in turn how those changes may rebound to China. He is the author of "Forest Sustainability in China and Implications for a Telecoupled World."

"For a long time, many scientists have focused specifically on one place to understand environmental impact, but that no longer is enough," said Liu, the director of MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability and the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability. "Economic development and environmental conservation in one place are increasingly having substantial influence elsewhere, and spill over into places we don't consider."

Deforestation that eases in China tends to reappear in the countries that sell them lumber and food to meet their ravenous appetite for housing and furniture as well as food. But Liu notes that that's just the beginning. He deploys the telecoupling framework a new multidisciplinary research tool that embraces the minutia of give and take. Telecoupling is socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. It goes beyond the idea of connection, as telecoupling factors in actions and reactions over distances.

In the past three decades, China has succeeded in increasing its forest cover. Sweeping policies that limit logging or encourage returning farmland to forest are credited with some of the success. Importing food, such as s
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Contact: Sue Nichols
nichols@msu.edu
517-432-0206
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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