Stony Moun­tains Turn Gold

Curb­ing rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion in south China is mak­ing great progress

Beijing Review - - NATION - By Wang Hairong

Bunches of plump dark pur­ple grapes hang from trel­lises in a vine­yard in Siba Town in south­west China’s Guangxi Zhuang Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion. Trac­ing the grapevines to the ground, one can see that they are rooted in stone cracks rather than soft soil.

The vine­yard was cul­ti­vated on a stony hill in Luocheng Mu­lao Au­ton­o­mous County, which fea­tures typ­i­cal karst to­pog­ra­phy, so its hills mostly have a thin layer of soil over lime­stone bedrocks. When sur­face soil is eroded, bedrocks are ex­posed, lead­ing to rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Grape plan­ta­tion has ef­fec­tively curbed rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion in the county, said Huang Jianyou, Deputy Direc­tor of the county forestry bureau. Thanks to grape plan­ta­tion in 2017, rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion area in the county shrunk by 15.3 square km, he told the me­dia.

So far, the county has planted more than 1,300 hectares of grapes in 20 demon­stra­tive bases, ac­cord­ing to Huang. The va­ri­ety of grape planted, the downy grape, has de­vel­oped strong roots that can pre­vent soil ero­sion and vines that can sprawl over bare stones. The va­ri­ety is also re­silient to drought and bar­ren land, mak- ing it ideal for ecological restora­tion in rocky and hilly ar­eas.

More­over, the grape is high-yield­ing and great for wine brew­ing, which has ben­e­fited more than 1,500 im­pov­er­ished house­holds, Huang added.

Green­ing rocky ar­eas

The si­t­u­a­tion of rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion in karst re­gions in south China has been reg­u­larly mon­i­tored by the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment, with re­sults from the third mon­i­tor­ing ses­sion re­leased by the State Coun­cil In­for­ma­tion Of­fice on De­cem­ber 13, 2018.

In ad­di­tion to Guangxi, it also cov­ered Chongqing mu­nic­i­pal­ity and Hubei, Hu­nan, Guang­dong, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yun­nan prov­inces. The mon­i­tor­ing re­vealed that the rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion area shrank at an an­nual av­er­age rate of 3.45 per­cent be­tween 2011 and 2016, with 22.3 per­cent of karst ar­eas still suf­fer­ing from de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion as of 2016.

It also showed that in re­cent years, rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion has dwin­dled at a much faster pace, with the to­tal re­duced area of stony de- ser­ti­fied land in the last five-year mon­i­tor­ing pe­riod twice that of the pre­vi­ous five-year pe­riod, said Liu Dong­sheng, Deputy Direc­tor of the Na­tional Forestry and Grass­land Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NFGA), at a press con­fer­ence to re­lease the re­sults.

He ex­plained that the plan­ta­tion and pro­tec­tion of trees and grass con­trib­uted to 65.5 per­cent of the rocky de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion re­ver­sal in karst ar­eas.

Since 1999, China has ini­ti­ated many poli­cies on ecological pro­tec­tion, such as sub­si­dies for pro­tect­ing nat­u­ral forests and eco­com­pen­sa­tion for af­foresta­tion and other green­ing ef­forts, said Sun Guoji, Direc­tor of the De­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion Con­trol Depart­ment of the NFGA, which was re­named and re­vamped dur­ing the gov­ern­ment reshuf­fle launched in 2018, re­flect­ing the im­por­tance at­tached to de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion con­trol.

In ad­di­tion to pol­icy sup­port, China has launched a new round of farm­land-to-for­est projects and the sec­ond phase of nat­u­ral for­est pro­tec­tion projects while con­tin­u­ing to build the Yangtze River and Pearl River shel­ter forests,

Tourism has de­vel­oped fast in Dafang County, south­west China’s Guizhou Prov­ince, be­cause of the karst land­form of the area

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