Villager in Pingwu County.
Villager in northern Sichuan's Pingwu County. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
Villager in Pingwu County.
Villager in Pingwu County. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A young boy at the "Bamboo Sea."
A young boy at southern Sichuan's "Bamboo Sea." Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A woman holding stalks of bamboo in a factory in Sichuan.
A woman holding stalks of bamboo in a factory in Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A young woman visiting the 'Bamboo Sea' in southern Sichuan.
A young woman visiting the 'Bamboo Sea' in southern Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A farmer in his corn fields near one of the southern Sichuan's bamboo forests
A farmer in his corn fields near one of the southern Sichuan's bamboo forests. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A young man inside a bamboo factory in southern Sichuan.
A young man inside a bamboo factory in southern Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
Carrying bamboo prior to production in a factory in southern Sichuan.
Carrying bamboo prior to production in a factory in southern Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A Buddhist monk stands in front of a bamboo plant at the "Bamboo Sea."
A Buddhist monk stands in front of a bamboo plant near a temple at the "Bamboo Sea." Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A young boy in the forest.
A young boy in the forest. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A local man in his home, high in the mountainous forests of Pingwu County.
A local man in his home, high in the mountainous forests of Pingwu County in northern Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A park warden in the Jiuzhaigou National Park in northern Sichuan.
A park warden in the Jiuzhaigou National Park in northern Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
A young girl plays in the water in the mountainous forests of northern Sichuan.
A young girl plays in the water in the mountainous forests of northern Sichuan. Image by Sean Gallagher. China, 2011.
Villager in Pingwu County.
Villager in Pingwu County.
A young boy at the "Bamboo Sea."
A woman holding stalks of bamboo in a factory in Sichuan.
A young woman visiting the 'Bamboo Sea' in southern Sichuan.
A farmer in his corn fields near one of the southern Sichuan's bamboo forests
A young man inside a bamboo factory in southern Sichuan.
Carrying bamboo prior to production in a factory in southern Sichuan.
A Buddhist monk stands in front of a bamboo plant at the "Bamboo Sea."
A young boy in the forest.
A local man in his home, high in the mountainous forests of Pingwu County.
A park warden in the Jiuzhaigou National Park in northern Sichuan.
A young girl plays in the water in the mountainous forests of northern Sichuan.

"You ask why I make my home in the mountain forest,
and I smile, and am silent,
and even my soul remains quiet:
it lives in the other world
which no one owns.
The peach trees blossom,
The water flows."

Li Bai (701-762), Chinese Poet of the Tang Dynasty

As my travels end after several weeks of reporting on the crises facing China's forests, I turn back to look again at some of the faces that I have encountered over the course of this journey.

These 'Faces in the Forest' represent something quite interesting to me. They show not only the diversity of people in the southwestern province of Sichuan, but also highlight the relationship between the people and the forest itself. It is this relationship, this uneasy and fragile balance, that fascinates me and offers an insight into the people of this region.

From local people's homes in the mountainous forests, to the numerous bamboo factories, to the national parks, the people of the southwest's forests are linked by their intimate relationship to the land. They have welcomed me and allowed me to photograph them. Each one has a role in the future of protecting the region's forests and ensuring their survival.

On the whole, the forest's loss has been halted in southwest China. However, beyond the propaganda, many challenges still remain from over-harvesting of plants for traditional medicine usage, mono-cultured forests and severe habitat fragmentation.

As I hope my reporting has demonstrated over the past month, these new challenges continue to seriously threaten both the flora and fauna of this valuable biodiversity hotspot.

As the UN's International Year of Forest draws to an end, its resolution points at the key to the future of the protection of the world's forests: "Efforts should focus on raising awareness at all levels to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations."

Changing attitudes, from the grass roots level through to government, is perhaps the only way in which the remaining forests of southwest of China can be saved.

Project

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Natural forests cover about 10 percent of China’s surface area, but large swathes of China’s forests have been destroyed as a result of logging, mining, wood and plant collection.

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