China is the global leader in afforestation efforts to restore degraded forest ecosystems. However, it is difficult for these efforts to completely substitute for natural forests. In order to reveal the differences between plantations and natural forests, we compared stand spatial structure of plantations, mixed plantations, and natural forests by using the mingling degree (Mi), uniform angle index (Wi), and neighborhood comparison ( Ui) in the Mulan-Weichang Forestry Administrative region of the rocky mountain area, northern China. The results indicated that natural forests were characterized by varying species composition, individual tree distribution, and competitive relationships, which were more complex than monoculture plantations. Forest management is beneficial to stand spatial structure improvement, resulting in mixed plantations that are closer to natural forests. On this basis, China’s forest policy should shift focus from afforestation for area expansion to forest management for ecological improvement.
forest restoration, plantation, natural forest, stand spatial structure, forest management
 Food and Agriculture Organization, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010: Main Report. Food and Agriculture Organization: Rome, pp. 18–29, 2010.
 Li, W.H., Degradation and restoration of forest ecosystems in China. Forest Ecology and Management, 201, pp. 33–41, 2004. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2004.06.010
 Wang, G., Innes, J.L., Lei, J., Dai, S.Y. & Wu, S.W., China’s forestry reforms. Science, 318, pp. 1556–1557, 2008. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1147247
 Wang, G., Innes, J.L., Wu, S.W. & Dai, S., Towards a new paradigm: the development of China’s forestry in the 21st century. International Forestry Review, 10(4), pp. 619–631, 2008. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1505/ifor.10.4.619
 Liu, J., China’s road to sustainability. Science, 328, p. 50, 2010. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/ science.1186234
 Guan, L.X., Sun, G. & Cao, S.X., China’s bureaucracy hinders environment recovery. AMBIO, 40, pp. 96–99, 2011. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13280-010-0112-6
 Li, H.M., Aide, T.M., Ma, Y.X., Liu, W. & Cao, M., Dem and for rubber is causing the loss of high diversity rain forest in SW China. Biodiversity and Conservation, 16, pp. 1731–1745, 2007. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10531-006-9052-7
 Cao, S.X., Chen, L., Shankman, D., Wang, C.M., Wang, X.B. & Zhan, H., Excessive reliance on afforestation in China’s arid and semi-arid regions: lessons in ecological restoration. Earth-
Science Review, 104, pp. 240–245, 2011. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2010.11.002
 Cao, S.X., Tian, T., Li, C., Dong, X.B., Yu, X.X. & Wang, G.S., Damage caused to the environment by reforestation policies in arid and semi-arid areas of China. AMBIO, 39, pp. 279–283,
2010. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13280-010-0038-z
 Gao, G.L., Ding, G.D., Wang, H.Y., Zang, Y.T. & Liang, W.J., China needs forest management rather than reforestation for carbon sequestration. Environmental Science Technology, 45, pp. 10292–10293, 2011. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es203897f
 Gao, G.L., Ding, G.D., Wang, H.Y., Zang, Y.T., Liang, W.J., An, Y. & He, Y., Short communication. Restoring monoculture plantation using stand spatial structure analysis. Forest Systems,
22(1), pp. 147–151, 2013. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5424/fs/2013221-03294
 Pommerening, A., Approaches to quantifying forest structures. Forestry, 75(3), pp. 305–324, 2002. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/forestry/75.3.305
 Pom merening, A., Evaluating structural indices by reversing forest structural analysis. Forest Ecology and Management, 224, pp. 266–277, 2006. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2005.12.039
 Aguirre, O., Hui, G.Y., Gadow, K. & Jiménez J., An a nalysis of spatial forest structure using neighbourhood-based variables. Forest Ecology and Management, 183, pp. 137–145, 2003. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0378-1127(03)00102-6
 Hui, G.Y., Albert, M. & Gadow, K., The diameter dominance as a parameter for simulating forest structure. Forstwissenschaftliches Centralblatt, 117, pp. 258–266, 1998. doi: http://dx.doi. org/10.1007/BF02832980
 Hui, G.Y. & Gadow, K. The uniform angle index: derivation of the optimal standard angle. Allgemeine Forst und Jagdzeitung, 173, pp. 173–177, 2002.
 Mansourian, S., Dudley, N. & Vallauri, D., Forest Restoration in Landscapes: Beyond Planting Trees, Springer-Verlag: New York, pp. 8–17, 2005. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/0-38729112-1_2
 Xu, J.C., China’s new forests aren’t as green as they seem. Nature, 47(7365), p. 370, 2011.