Taiwan's forest administration conforms to the principle of sustainable management. Responding to world resource management trends, the Bureau has taken "maintenance of forest ecology and conservation of natural resources" as its mission, and has relied on the three concepts of "sustainable management of forests, " "management of forest resources for multiple uses," and "maintenance of biodiversity" to establish a new forestry management system geared towards planning at the level of ecosystem. The system‘s operating philosophy is to use ecological methods, in consideration of public needs and environmental values, to achieve the sustainable management of national forest lands for multiple uses.
Forest ecosystem management is based on a sound grasp of the current state of resources and the environment. Surveys conducted on different scales have been used to establish a monitoring system, and the Bureau has relied on the analysis and application of survey data to establish a forest land classification system dividing forest lands into Nature Protection Areas, Land Security Protection Areas, Forest Recreation Areas, and Timber Management Areas. This system is intended to achieve the most appropriate use and greatest utility. One survey is conducted of the national forest working circles once every ten years. The results of these surveys are used to monitor changes and update geography information databases. In addition, the Bureau has established 3,206 permanent sample plots throughout Taiwan; follow up inspections are conducted in each sample plot every five years to obtain forest growth data. In addition, in response to the Kyoto Protocol, the Bureau relies on forest resource surveys of private and national forests throughout Taiwan to monitor the state of forest resources and determine forests' carbon sequestration performance. Finally, Bureau has established long-term dynamic sample plots in Taiwan's most representative forest types for the purpose of analyzing small-scale dynamic changes in forests.
Crowned with towering mountain ranges, Taiwan has long been known as Formosa - the "Beautiful Island." The forests that cover Taiwan's mountains contain an exceptionally wide array of flora and fauna. Apart from this ecological function, Taiwan‘s forests also play a crucial role in water and soil conservation, and provide much of the water resources needed to sustain people's lives and economic activities. Furthermore, forests also provide many recreational and educational functions. Due to their close linkage with almost every aspect of everyday life, it is not so far-fetched to assert that forests are Taiwan's life's blood.
Forest resource surveys are an important source of information to guide forest management and decision-making. Responding to policy-drafting needs, the Bureau has conducted three nationwide forest resource surveys over the years. Nowadays the role of forest resources relative to the economy, society, resource management, and international affairs has changed, and past survey data is inadequate to meet needs at many levels. Apart from various surveys intended to meet specific service needs, such as the "Forest Permanent Sample Plots Survey," and "National Forest Working Circles Survey", the Bureau plans to conduct the Fourth Nationwide Forest Resources Survey starting in 2008.
According to the 1995 Third Survey of Forest Resources and Land Use in Taiwan, there was a total of 2,102,400 hectares of forest nationwide, and forests constituted 58.53% of Taiwan's total land area of 3,591,500 hectares. National forests accounted for 1,612,900 hectare, or approximately 76.7% of all forest land. Occupying 1,120,400 hectares, hardwood forests were the leading forest type on the island, followed by 438,500 hectares of conifer forests, 391,200 hectares of mixed conifer and hardwood, and 152,300 hectares of bamboo. The total volume of wood the island was 358,744,000 cubic meters.
Depending on climate, humidity, and elevation, Taiwan's forest types include tropical forests, sub-tropical forests, temperate forests, and alpine Cryptomeria. Taiwan's forests produce many types of trees, of which Taiwan Zelkova, Michelia, Cinnamomum kanehirae, Griffith Ash, Red Cypress, Taiwan Yellow Cypress, and Hemlock are distributed throughout the island. In particular, Taiwan Yellow Cypress and Red Cypress are esteemed worldwide. Species commonly used for afforestation in national forests include Japanese Fir, Red Pine, Red Cypress, Taiwan Acacia, Fir, Griffith Ash, Taiwania, Taiwan Zelkova, China Fir, Camphor tree, Red Alder, and Sweet Gum. Of these, Japanese Fir, Red Pine, Red Cypress, Taiwan Acacia, and Fir cover the largest area.
Forest trees grow in the most suitable environments, where they form forests and gradually establish forest communities.
Spruce - fir type
Taiwan fir and Taiwan spruce are the dominant tree species in this forest type. Taiwan fir prefers high elevations, where it often grows in pure stands; it is ordinarily found in relatively inaccessible mountain areas at elevations above 2,500 meters.
Hemlock is one of the most important conifers in Taiwan. It grows at elevations of 2,000-3,000 meters. It is often mixed with Taiwan fir at the upper end of its range, and is found mixed with pines and temperate hardwood trees at lower elevations.
Red and yellow cypress are among the most valuable tree species growing in Taiwan. Red and yellow cypress tend to grow in pure stands at elevations of 1,500-2,800 meters. The two species are also found growing in mixed forests.
Pine grows in Taiwan at elevations of 300-2,800 meters. Pine forests are the most common natural conifer forests on the island. The most plentiful pine species is Taiwan red pine.
Other conifer type
Apart from plantations consisting of introduced China fir and Japanese fir of the same age, other species of native conifers are typically mixed with hardwood trees or other conifers, and are very seldom found in pure stands.
Conifer- hardwood mixed type
Mixed conifer—hardwood forests consisting of temperate hardwood trees and conifers are common at elevations of 1,500-2,000 meters.
Hardwood forests are found from sea level to an elevation of 2,000 meters. Because hardwood trees prefer low elevations, hardwood forests are more accessible than conifer forests. Common hardwood species include members of the camphor and beech families.
While bamboo groves are found throughout Taiwan, large, pure stands of bamboo are found only at middle elevations in central Taiwan. Ma bamboo is found below 1,300 meters, Makino bamboo prefers elevations of 100-1,000 meters, and Moso bamboo grows at elevations of 1,000-1,600 meters.
In order to preserve forestry history and culture, the Forestry Bureau drafted a project of Taiwan Forestry Cultural Park in 2004, establishing three forestry cultural parks in Dongshi, Luodong and Hualien. Then in cooperation with Chiayi’s urban renewal plan in 2007, the Forestry Bureau constructed the “Alishan Forestry Village and Cypress Forest Life Village” as the nation’s fourth forestry cultural park. Through the preservation of forestry culture, it is expected to attract more tourists and promote local tourism-related industries.
Among the four forestry cultural parks, most facilities in Luodong Forestry Cultural Park and Hualien Lintianshan Forestry Cultural Park have been completed due to earlier construction. Parts of facilities in Chiayi Cypress Forest Life Village and Alishan Forestry Village (such as woodcarving exhibition hall and installation art) have been completed and partially open to the public. Owing to the fire of Daxueshan timber factory in 2006, the construction of Dongshi Forestry Cultural Park is delayed. So far only partial lumber plant and hiking trail (open to the public already) are finished. In recent years, the open area has become a good place for people to enjoy leisure activities.