A huge increase in China’s demand for rubber is leading to the destruction of vast swathes of the country’s precious old-growth forests, and could cause irreversible environmental damage.
The shocking findings have been revealed in a new study by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Science’s flagship conservation institute, the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG). The team have discovered that China is producing a third more rubber than it was in 2007 to feed its booming automobile and tyre industries, which has led to an astronomical rise in the number of rubber plantations.
According to one of the scientists, “We will soon hit the wall in an ecological credit crunch. This is hardly a viable investment.”
The problem is that rubber trees are extremely thirsty, sucking up water from the soil and drying up streams and wells. Deforestation to make way for rubber plantations also releases huge amounts of carbon.
Ecologists at the institute — itself surrounded by rubber plantations — are seeking to boost their research capacity and play a stronger policy and advocacy role in biodiversity conservation in the region.
Image Credit – Gaetan Lee via flickr on a Creative Commons license