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《今日中国》英文版报道笔者研究小组浑善达克沙地恢复试验成果  

2013-03-26 09:48:57|  分类: 环保呐喊 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Nurturing the Land through the Land

By staff reporter LI YUAN on March 1, 2013

 

 《今日中国》英文版报道笔者研究小组浑善达克沙地恢复试验成果 - 蒋高明 - 蒋高明的博客
Jiang Gaoming (middle) with local herders.

 

AMONG the many superlative descriptions of China, one of the least desirable is that of being among the countries hardest hit by desertification. As of the end of 2009, arid, semi-arid and sandy land accounted for a staggering 45.36 percent of Chinese territory. Many of the initiatives devised and carried out to tackle the problem have yielded encouraging results. One is the program spearheaded by Jiang Gaoming, a researcher at the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. A case study of his desertification control efforts in Otindag Sandland in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region appears in the sixth edition of the U.S. textbook Geology and the Environment, and has received extensive international media coverage.

In 2000, Jiang and his team established an enclave at the heart of Onqin Daga housing his bio-system restoration experiment. Today, what was formerly a swath of parched drab is a lush pastureland.

        From Afforestation to Natural Rehabilitation

To counteract the growingly frequent and intense sandstorms that hit Beijing and Tianjin in the late 1990s, China launched a project in 2000 to address ecological degradation in the source areas. That year the Chinese Academy of Sciences added its weight to the mission through its experiment to revive the degraded eco-system in the interspersed crop fields and grazing lands of Onqin Daga and regions north of Beijing. Jiang Gaoming and his team were assigned a plot of 26.8 square kilometers in Bayan Huxu at the heart of Onqin Daga, 180 kilometers north of Beijing.

Onqin Daga is one of the four largest sand lands in China. The others comprise Horqin, Mau Us and Hulun Buir, all in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Covering 53,000 square kilometers, it is less than 200 kilometers from Beijing as the crow flies. Back in the 1960s, this largely lifeless terrain was blanketed knee-deep in grass in the warmer seasons. Excessive grazing in the following decades, however, led to severe soil erosion. By the year 2000, shifting sand dunes had expanded from two percent to 70 percent of the local territory, creating a dust bowl that from time to time engulfed the capital.

Reforestation is an established remedy for sandstorms that both the government and academic circles embrace. When Jiang Gaoming and his team first arrived at Bayan Huxu, they painstakingly planted tree seedlings, only to see them wither and eventually die the next year.

During one get-together with local residents, someone suggested: “If the area is closed off, grass will sprout plentifully of its own accord.” This observation inspired Jiang. But then the question arose: “Where will locals graze their herds if this area is enclosed?” Jiang hit on the compromise solution of setting aside a 67-hectare, or 2.5 percent, strip of the total area for experimental cultivation of a high-yield species of fodder grass. To boost output, the research team dug wells and set up power lines, and paved roads to facilitate irrigation and plantation. The rest of the land was fenced off as a grazing moratorium. By the year 2008, green coverage in the region had soared to an average 60 percent, and in some places to 100 percent. A renaissance of fauna accompanied this flora revival. The young steppe is now the habitat of wolves, foxes, rabbits, wild goats and a number of wild fowls such as swans. The formerly barren terrain has come back to life.

Man and Nature: Unity of Opposites

Spontaneous recovery is not a new concept. It originates in the Chinese philosophical principle “govern by non-action,” and the common idea “close hillsides to facilitate afforestation.” The Alps in Europe, arid areas of the American West and China’s Jiuzhaigou Valley all exemplify spontaneous recovery.

Jiang Gaoming had two sources of inspiration. One was his teacher and the other the local residents of Onqin Daga. Jiang’s teacher Professor Bradshaw, an expert in ecological sciences at the U.K. University of Liverpool, told him that ecological restoration is sometimes achieved by doing nothing, as long as it is within nature’s capacity. When chatting on one occasion with the local Onqin Daga residents, one of them mentioned that closing off an area from grazing would enable grass to grow spontaneously, but that this would cause an animal feed supply problem.

As Jiang says, explaining the theory of natural restoration is easy enough, but putting it into practice is not. The key problem is guaranteeing locals’ economic benefits while combating desertification. Environmental degradation is due to over-exploitation of natural resources. To achieve a spontaneous recovery a specific area must be closed off. But as this would inevitably affect the economic interests of local farmers and herders they would be bound to oppose the program.

To solve the problem, Jiang and his fellow researchers worked with local government officials in guiding local herders to adjust their livestock structure. They suggested that villagers could earn higher incomes by reducing numbers of sheep and goats and instead focusing on high-yield breeds of dairy cattle. They also proposed that locals grow high-yield corn developed by the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, so providing sufficient forage for cattle. This, in addition to hay in the herders’ own pastures, would meet the need for cattle-feed in winter and also provide enough for the coming spring season.

In 2007, Jiang and his team put forward the idea of raising small-bodied chickens on grassland, because they inflict little harm and help to control plant diseases and insect pests. This way, chickens would also have a better than average growing environment. Their meat would consequently be both tender and tastier and generate higher economic benefits. The innovative concept of raising poultry instead of cattle both promoted spontaneous recovery and created employment opportunities for local farmers.

Jiang and his team’s five years of endeavor have enabled the recovery of 6,700 hectares of arid and semi-arid land. The annual income of local herders has also risen from US 315toUS460, and dust storms have abated.

Management Crucial

Even today, Jiang still journeys several times a year to Onqin Daga to assess the experiment’s results. It has been carried out for 12 years, during which time the main task has changed from ecological restoration to grassland industry development. This includes rangeland cultivation, animal husbandry, green vegetables and fruit, organic food, biopharmaceutical industry, bio-energy development, ecological tourism and ecological village construction. The ultimate goal is to generate economic returns through the spontaneous recovery model.

“Ecologically speaking, it’s easy to restore pasture,” Jiang Gaoming said. “But what’s most important is long-term management.” Jiang believes that the Green GDP should be adopted as an indicator to evaluate government officials’ political achievement, and that an ecological compensation mechanism should be established. He also holds that policies should be made that balance the distribution of interests among different regions and that there should be greater transparency in decision-making about ecological and environmental protection projects. Jiang also advocates the promotion of ecological and environmental protection education for everyday citizens.

The concept of “nurturing the land through the land” has drawn growing attention and become the model most widely adopted for restoring China’s degraded ecological environment. The international community has also picked up on it. In July 2007, correspondent for the U.S. Science magazine Dennis Normile wrote an article on Jiang’s experimental efforts to deal with sand lands in Onqin Daga. It states: “If the lessons of Bayan Huxu can be applied across the vast steppes once ruled by Genhis Khan, dust storms should diminish.”

In 2010, the sixth edition of the U.S. textbook Geology and the Environment made mention of Jiang’s ecological restoration experiment as a case study. It points out that a better way of tackling desertification might be to replace trees with grass, because trees depend on groundwater whereas grass can survive on just rainwater.

Jiang’s experiment has also drawn attention from other countries plagued with desertification. In September 2007, scientists from 11 countries, including Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan, made a trip to Bayan Huxu to inspect the ecological restoration project there. In 2008, the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization praised Jiang and his team’s achievement during the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification held at the UN’s U.S. headquarters. In 2012, the Pakistani government introduced and implemented Jiang’s theory in its degraded areas. Moreover, the governments of Burkina Faso in Africa and Bolivia in South America have both shown interest in China’s successful ecological restoration experience.

 



本文引用地址:http://blog.sciencenet.cn/blog-475-669709.html
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