Stony Mountains Turn Gold
Curbing rocky desertification in south China is making great progress
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