• Tongliao, Inner Mongolia

    since 2007

  • Background

    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.


    In Tongliao Municipality, Inner Mongolia, this lethal combination of the climate change and land exploitation has resulted in expanding desertification at an astonishing rate. Sandstorms strike Inner Mongolia and the surrounding areas each spring, destroying local homes and forcing people to flee their native land. This project aims to reforest the area in order to revitalize the land and block the sandstorms.

  • Project Objective

    The Inner Mongolia project began in 2007 with the express goal of planting one million trees, in order to counter rapid desertification and restore the land in Tongliao through afforestation. After years of dedicated work, MTP finished planting its first million thriving trees in 2012, and continuing into 2016, a second million trees were planted. 
    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.

    1. Selecting Tree Species

    With input from both local forestry staff and experts from the Oregon State University Forestry Department, MTP chose four plant species that are well-adapted for local environmental conditions.

    Hybrid poplar

    Populus simonii

    Adapts to local soil and climate and absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide.

    Hybrid Poplars are particularly effective at sequestering carbon and do not require large amounts of water to thrive, which is important in this desertified climate.

    Mongolian Scots Pine

    Pinus sylvestnis var. mongolica Litv.


    The Mongolian Scots Pine is an evergreen plant with strong roots and a long lifespan. A drought-, wind-, and cold-resistant plant, this pine species is perfect for fighting desertification.

    文冠果 Yellowhorn

    Xanthoceras sorbifolia


    Yellowhorn seeds contain twice the amount of oil as soybeans, and can be used for both cooking and industrial purposes. This species has a long history of successful growth in the region and will produce both economic and ecological benefits.

    Littleleaf Peashrub

    Caragana microphylla Lam


    The Littleleaf Peashrub is a typical local shrub and is crucial to arid and semi-arid ecosystems. As a shrub, it strikes an excellent balance between biological restoration and economic development.

    2. Planting the Trees

    Volunteers planting trees together on a planting trip in Inner Mongolia

    Every year, MTP volunteers travel to Tongliao for our planting trip. Volunteers learn how to plant trees and work with our on-site staff as well as with local farmers to give these saplings a new home and their best chance at survival. While the trees are in their infancy, local farmers are encouraged to interplant crops like beans, millet, or watermelons for extra income; this increases both biodiversity and the amount of available nutrients for the trees.


    MTP collaborates with the Department of Forest Science's Nursery Technology Cooperative at Oregon State University, USA, and our full-time forestry managers evaluate soil quality, the viability of the saplings, intercropping practices, and local community support before and after planting.


    Find out more about how to become a volunteer and join one of our planting trips here.

    3. Maintaining and Monitoring the Site

    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. In Inner Mongolia, MTP works with the Youth League of Kulun Qi to engage students and farmers. Farmers are licensed to harvest trees that have reached maturity on the condition that they replant on the harvested plot.


    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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