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China and Desertification
Alex Steffen, 26 Jun 05

We've written before about desertification and the "Green Wall of China", but here's an update:

More than a quarter of China's total land area has been classified as desertified and the degradation is adversely affecting the lives of more than 400 million people, or 30 percent of its population.

But through a series of policy measures China has been implementing over the past few years, positive results are finally being seen. Since 1999, the area of desertification has been cut by 37,924 square kilometres, and is being reduced at an annual rate of 7,585 square kilometres.

Six forestry projects launched in 1998, which target the planting of 760 million hectares of trees, have so far produced some 20 million hectares of forest. State media said this project, with a target of converting 14.66 million hectares of farmland into forests and to cover 17.33 million hectares of barren land with trees by 2010, is starting to pay dividends.

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Where do they get the water from for this? What effects does it have on the people downstream who no longer get access to that water? Why do they have such large deserts now, when they have such rich soil in China? How did they make these deserts?

Posted by: Neil Horne on 27 Jun 05

In succession, Nature starts with bacterial dominated soils in desert and pushes to grasses to shrubs to deciduous to fungal dominated conifer forest, like a clock which starts at noon and ends at noon over time, in a spiral to complexity. Planting trees jumps too far ahead without building the water holding capacities of the soil. If we start with intensively grazing flerds around the edges of those deserts, the ecology will become more stable, quicker and more reliably, especially with decisions made by the people working the flerds with respect for recovery time for the grasses.

Bad decisions are the basis for the degradation. We've got to get this. It could even be fun to get this.

Posted by: Kim McDodge on 27 Jun 05

Re Kim's comment: there's a lot of interesting management practices at this web site:

I think they're having fun learning to "get it."

Posted by: David Foley on 27 Jun 05

What causes most of ch9inas desertification problems was LONG ago farming. Basicaly the soil in china is silt very very very very very do you get the clue VERY fine silt. It washes away like crazy.

So they tried to farm many thousands of years ago and about a few 1000 CUBIC MILES of soil washed away. Its why the yellow river is yellow and has been for so very long.

Posted by: wintermane on 30 Jun 05



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