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Current Condition and Advantages of Desertification Control

China’s desertification has reached an epic area of 2,622,000 square kilometers accounting for 27.4% of the national land area and it is continuing to expand.  Using image data supplied from Landsat and investigating 17 typical desert regions shows that China’s desertification is in severe condition.  Mu Us desert in Inner Mongolia covers over 40,000 square kilometers and in the last 40 years, its area of quicksand has increased by over 47% while the forest cover has decreased by 76.4% and also a 17% reduction in grassland area.  The extreme land degradation that is occurring calls for urgent action to be taken.

(1) Special Aqueous Sandy Land

In China, the manageable aqueous sandy land and desert covers approximately 40,000 square kilometers with Inner Mongolia home to a large sandy aquifer. The Hulunbuir grasslands, Khorchin sandy lands, Hunshadake sandy lands and the Mu Us desert are all hydrated from this large sandy aquifer.  The type of sand in this area is unique and generally 5 to 10 cm below the surface the sand is moist meaning that “the phreatic line is the same height as the sand”.  This unique and natural environment results in the area offering highly favorable conditions for desert plants.

(2) Unique Desert Shrubs

In this vast landscape, there are still plants and desert shrubs that are suited to the area and Salix is one example of such a plant due to its natural resistant to stress and drought conditions.  Salix is able to withstand extreme changes in temperature, higher salinity levels and is resistant to wind.  However Salix requires moderate sand stability to survive as it is intolerant of wind erosion so as the sand pressure increase so does the growth success of the plant.  Salix is easy to propagate due to its strong resistance to drought and it is also able to tolerate difficult conditions resulting and including flood, sand immersion, cattle grazing and cutting from tools like axes.  It also has a unique “stubble rejuvenation” growth habit with every 3 to 5 years during winter, branches of the plant will be harvested from the base of the plant which leads to re-growth of the plant in the following spring.  Salix has a growing time of approximately three years after which it is available for harvesting.  The varying features of Salix make it a great choice for use in a sand erosion control project and will result in a solid foundation for continuing sustainable development.

(3) High Land Intensification of Desert Area

The desert has a high degree of concentrated land while being sparsely populated and Salix has the same calorific value of coal therefore planting Salix here does not affect the growth of food.  On the contrary, Salix will play a significant role in preventing further sand erosion and helping to stabilize the ground.  It also has the added benefit of being developed into a green crop and providing a harvest option due to the fact that after 3-6 years of stable growth, it is able to be harvested.

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