Summary of 2015 Planting Progress
Three new plots of forests were planted in 2015, all of which are located in Bagatala Sumu, KeerqinzuoyiHouqi, 60 kilometers south of Tongliao, covering an area of 138.5 hectares (2077 Mu).
In view of local circumstances such as little rainfall and frequent sandstorms, MTP decided to experiment with an integrative method of controlling sand movement by planting a mix of trees and shrubs in 2015. Caragana microphylla Lam is the selected shrub species, a native shrub species in Inner Mongolia. It forms a very dynamic protection system with its flourishing branches above the ground and extended roots beneath. It provides a solid foundation for soil development and restoration of vegetation diversity. In addition to its significant biological value, Caragana microphylla Lam is also an ideal grazing plant. Its fast growth makes it tolerant for herding, therefore maintaining the balance between biological restoration and economic benefits.
根据当地降水少，风沙大等实际情况，项目组开始尝试乔灌混交及灌木纯林的综合治沙方式。选取的灌木品种为小叶锦鸡儿(Caragana microphylla Lam)，是内蒙古草原古草原具有代表性的本土灌木物种，具有发达的根系和茂密的枝条，能为土壤发育和植物群落多样性的恢复提供重要保障，同时也是良好的饲用灌木，对放牧有较好的承受能力，能够在有限的范围内保证生态恢复和经济发展的平衡。
From 2007 till now, the MTP has planted over 1,712,000 trees, covering an area of 1516 Hectares. The tree species planted include Poplars, Pines, Maples and Yellow horns.
2015 Annual Forest Investigation
The Million Tree Project places an important focus on supervision and surveys of the trees after planting in order to ensure consistent ecological and environmental benefits. The 2015 investigation sampled 7,900 trees in 274 random spots in 25 forest plots and took us 31 days from September to November to complete. The general survival rate of all MTP forests is 67.92%.
The graph below shows the survival rates of the planting sites we have afforested since the beginning of the project in the past four years.
Over 7 to 8 years, significant impact is observed in terms of vegetation restoration and ecosystem reconstruction in the forests planted in 2007 and 2008. Flourishing tree canopies together with diverse undergrowth provide shelter for different types of organisms, while benefiting soil enrichment and water conservation. The following images show the forest growth in different years.
2015 Ecological Investigation
Since 2013, the Million Tree Project has been planting trees mainly in places with harsh environmental conditions, especially places with sparse vegetation and covered with widespread moving and semi-moving sand dunes. Our objective is to gradually immobilize the moving sand dunes and rehabilitate the ecosystem through restoration of native vegetation by afforestation.
Classification of Desertification Degree, cited from ‘China’s Deserts, Desertified Lands, Desert Plants’, China Agricultural Science and Technology Press, published in 2013. 沙漠化土地分类标准引用自《中国沙漠、沙地、沙生植物》，中国农业科学技术出版社，2013.
Meanwhile, we started to notice that the very few trees growing on these plots looked more like shrubs without strong tree trunks, and other than growing upwards, growing horizontally due to the frequent wind drafts and the limitation of water resources, which means that the height and DBH (Diameter at Breast Height) would not necessarily increase as trees grew older, and would not necessarily have direct relevance to the overall vegetation restoration and ecosystem rehabilitation. Therefore, in 2014, the project began to focus on ecological investigation, directing its efforts to understanding restoration of the overall ecosystem and biodiversity. The ecological investigation includes three main parts: species diversity, vegetation structure, and vegetation coverage.
The ecological survey of Year 2015 sampled 57 spots on 6 plots, two of which we sampled in 2014, and the other four were under initial survey. All of the six plots are located at Zhaogensumo Gacha and Bianjie Gacha, Horqin Left Back Banner.
The preliminary results show that there are a total of 36 types of grass and shrub species in the forests. The biodiversity of 2013 and 2014 forests is twice as much as that of the forest planted in 2015. The vegetation coverage of the initial investigation plots is only 12% with simple structures, and the sand dune is still semi-moving; whereas, the vegetation coverage of 2013-1, 2014-2 forests has increased to 33%, indicating that forest restoration has proven effective, and the semi-moving sand dunes are gradually transitioning to semi-stable sand dunes.
The following images show the contrast in vegetation appearance in different years on the sand dunes near the forest planted in 2013. More shrubs and grasses are seen in the picture taken in 2015 than the one taken in 2014. This is called the integrative effect of Seed Accumulation (The growing saplings are working as windbreak to catch more seeds), Nursing Effect (Trees have an effect on improving soil moisture content, temperature and other microclimate conditions, inducing sprouting and growth of other vegetation), and Islands of Fertility (The roots of shrubs improve the nitrogen level in the soil, accelerate the accumulation of organic matter and vitalize micro-organisms), all of which could not have been achieved without tree planting. The native vegetation is in the process of recuperating and we are confident that in the long term we can achieve the goal to restore the ecosystem and stabilize the moving sand dunes.
下图展示的是2013年种植林地附近的沙丘，在不同年份的植被覆盖情况，可以看到，较2014年而言，2015年沙丘上及林木间都已有灌木和草本植物开始生长。这是通过种植苗木产生的种源聚集（Seed accumulator，苗木形成屏障风阻，拦截植物种子）、抚育效应（Nursing effect，改善土壤含水率、土壤温度等微物候条件，诱使其他植被的萌发与生长）和沃岛效应（Islands of fertility，灌木根系改善土壤含氮量、加速有机质累积、增加微生物活性）等综合因素作用而成，此地块的原生植物正在逐步恢复，最终有望达成重建生态系统，固定流动沙丘的长远目标。
Vegetation condition in 2013 forest, taken on 2014.7.16
Vegetation condition in 2013 forest, taken on 2015.7.3