Whilst exotic plantations established in the early stage of afforestation are proven to perform particularly well in land rehabilitation and soil erosion control, they have been facing some problems such as dead, aging, lack of growing space and slow natural regeneration of native plants, etc. Hence, it is time to enhance ecological value of these plantations and transform them into habitats with higher biodiversity.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) launched a programme named “Country Parks Plantation Enrichment Programme (PEP)” in 2009 with the following main objectives:
to increase biodiversity and ecological value of exotic plantations in country parks;
to make way for sustainable development of the plantations and healthy growth of trees therein; and
to reduce the chance of pest outbreaks.
Major enrichment measures generally include thinning of aging exotic tree species, planting of native tree seedlings and post-planting maintenance (e.g. weeding, adding fertilizer and pruning, etc.).
In 2009-2017, a total area of 60 hectares of exotic plantations in country parks was engaged under the PEP. About 79,000 tree seedlings comprising about 78 native species were in-planted in the PEP sites. Major native species planted include Liquidambar formosana, Machilus spp., Polyspora axilllaris, Rhodoleia championii, etc.
Based on the results of our field investigation in the pilot PEP sites, these habitat enhancement measures could effectively lead to a greater diversity of plants in the PEP sites. In view of the beneficial effects of the PEP, the AFCD will continue to carry out the PEP and extend the programme to gradually cover more exotic plantations in country parks.