As a result of climate change, deforestation, livestock overgrazing, and intensive agriculture, once-arable land is now rapidly becoming dry and fallow, susceptible to heavy erosion and, consequently, dust storms. This process is called desertification. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), desertification occurs in over 30% of China's territory and affects the lives of 400 million people.
Desertification caused by a complex set of environmental and anthropogenic factors has threatened critical infrastructure and farmland in the Baijitan Nature Reserve, Lingwu, Ningxia, on the southwest margin of the Maowusu desert.
MTP expanded its program to Ningxia in the spring of 2015. Encountering a new landscape, MTP adapted its original tree-planting project to better suit the specific needs in Ningxia, focusing on the more sandy soil that requires specific shrub and straw grid establishment. MTP’s effort would contribute to stopping the Maowusu Sandy Land from expanding, improve the local ecosystem and lessen the economic impact of desertification to the Yellow River corridor region .
In our mission to reforest and combat desertification in Ningxia, the Million Tree Project implements a 3-step process, combining forestry and on-site knowledge from our own team with the technical expertise of international and local partners.
Working with the Lingwu Baijitan Tree Farm, MTP devised a different method for desertification control, constructing massive straw grids and planting four species of locally adapted shrubs.
Caragana microphylla Lam
The Littleleaf Peashrub is a typical local shrub and is crucial to arid and semi-arid ecosystems. As a shrub, it also strikes an excellent balance between biological restoration and economic development.
Korshinsk Pea Shrub
Caragana Korshinskii Kom
The Korshinsk Pea Shrub efficiently fixes sand and makes barren hills green, since its roots grow with nitrogen-fixing nodules that improve soil quality. Its twigs and leaves also contain nitrogen, making them a good raw material for retting green manure.
Artemisia Ordosica is excellent at fixing sand because of the logarithmic clustering of its stems, which help to prevent soil erosion.
Sweetvetch has nitrogen-fixing nodules that allows it to grow vigorously in barren sand and improve soil quality.
Calligonum arborescens Litv.
The leaves of Calligonum arborescens Litv. are quite small, so photosynthesis is almost entirely carried out by its branches. The roots are also quite developed, making it a pioneer species for sand fixation.
At the Ningxia site, planting trip volunteers learn how to plant a mix of shrubs and also how to construct massive straw grids. Shrubs help to provide a solid foundation for soil development and restoration of vegetation diversity, while these straw grids both decelerate evaporation and improve soil moisture to buffer the survival rate of the shrubs that are planted. In addition to recruiting volunteers, MTP also contracts local farmers to carry out grid establishment, seed collection, and other planting activities, which helps generate extra income for local communities.
Find out more about how to become a volunteer and join one of these planting trips here.
Volunteers can also help to prune and trim the trees, which is critical to promote strong and healthy growth. Local farmers and students also help to monitor and maintain the trees growing on their land. Over time, the mature straw from the massive straw grids can be sold by the local communities, generating income benefits.
Forest surveys are a major component of monitoring the reforestation efforts. These are conducted by satellite and drone technology as well as by in-field investigations led by our forestry experts. Compiling reams of data year after year allows MTP to evaluate metrics of progress like survival rate, rainfall, coverage, degree of desertification, biodiversity, vegetation structure, height and diameter, and crown size of flora. From these data measurements, MTP can analyze long-term trends in forest health and growth.
Find out more about become a volunteer and how to get involved in one of these ecological investigations here.
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