Desertification and Its Mitigation Strategy in China

  • 1 School of Environment, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China;
    2 Institute of Desertification Studies, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091, China

Received date: 2012-03-13

  Revised date: 2012-05-11

  Online published: 2012-06-30

Supported by

the study was partially supported by State Forestry Administration “Public Welfare Research Foundation” (No. 201004010) and “948 Program” (No. 2008-4-47).


China is severely impacted by desertification. Of its territory, 34.6% — some 3.32 million km2 — is classified as drylands1) (including arid, semi-arid and semi-humid arid areas). Of the drylands, 2.62 million km2 meets the UNCCD definition of desertified land. These desertified lands spread across 18 provinces and account for 27.33% of the country's landmass. Over 400 million residents are affected, causing an annual direct economic loss exceed 64 billion CNY. China’s desertification mitigation began in late 1950s. Through a number of high-profile programs – “Three-North Shelterbelt Development Program”, “National Program on Combating Desertification”, “Sandification Control Program for Beijing and Tianjin Vicinity”, and “Croplands to Forests or Grasslands Program” launched between 1978 and 2000, the Government of China has poured on average 0.024% of the country’s annual GDP into desertification mitigation and, as a result, some 20% of desertified lands have been brought under control. Approximately 50×104 km2 of the existing desertified lands are considered restorable given current technology. When the potential desertification increments induced by global warming are taken into account, total desertified area within planning horizon is projected to range from 55×104 to 100×104 km2. With the approximate restoration rate of 1.5×104-2.2×104 km2 y-1, China’s anti-desertification battle is expected to last 45-70 years. The current strategic plans set restoration targets at 22×104 km2 by 2015, with an additional 33×104 km2 by 2030, and the final 45×104 km2 of the 100×104 km2 restored by 2050. Through examining state investment in mitigation and current rehabilitation strategies, the paper recommends: (i) boardening the previous sectoral perspective to a multi-stakeholder approach; (ii) setting priority zones within the restorable area, and establishing National Special Eco-Zones; (iii) steering state investment from government investment in tree plantations to acquisition of planted/greened areas; and (iv) introducing preferential policies in favor of sandy land restoration, including extending land tenures to 70 years and compensating for ecological services.

Cite this article

WANG Guoqian, WANG Xuequan, WU Bo, LU Qi . Desertification and Its Mitigation Strategy in China[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2012 , 3(2) : 97 -104 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2012.02.001


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