Urban forest development in China: Natural endowment or socioeconomic product?

Wendy Y. Chen*, Danny T WANG

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    The constantly evolving urban forest is becoming a significant focus due to worldwide increasing urbanization, and its contribution to the sustainability of urban ecosystems and the quality of urban life. The development of urban forests results from an interrelated complex of ecological, social, and economic processes. Quantitative studies of how natural and socioeconomic factors influence the development of urban forests, however, remains limited. This is especially the case in the context of transitional economies where rapid economic development, urbanization, and extensive institutional reconstruction might pose both challenges and opportunities for urban forest development. This study presents a quantitative analysis of both inter- and intra-city variations in urban forest coverage in 286 Chinese cities, at the prefecture level and above, to investigate the main and interactive effects of natural conditions, economic development, and institutional capacities on the development of urban forests. The econometric results indicate that all three factors are statistically significant; natural conditions play an important role in determining urban forest coverage in a city, while the role of economic development and institutional capacity tends to be weak. These results suggest that Chinese urban forests are primarily a natural endowment and that the coverage of urban forests may be improved in those cities with a higher GDP per capita and strong institutional capacities. Economic development exerts a moderating effect on natural factors and institutional capabilities, suggesting that economic development contributes less to urban forest development in cities located in humid-forest regions with strong institutional capacities. There is also a complementary effect of institutional capabilities on natural conditions, indicating that the positive impact of institution development is strengthened in humid-forest regions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)62-68
    Number of pages7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Development
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Urban Studies
    • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

    User-Defined Keywords

    • China
    • Economic development
    • Green coverage
    • Institutional capacity
    • Natural endowment
    • Urban forest


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