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It Is Urgent to Protect Global Biodiversity

Three-North Shelter Forest Program (also known as the Great Green Wall) in China is the first world-famous ecological project that started with China’s Economic Reform and Opening-up. This project is a large-scale shelterbelt system construction approved by the State Council of the PRC in 1978 to address the severe problem of sandstorm hazards and soil erosion in the North, the Northeast, and the Northwest regions. Every year, the Gobi Desert engulfs 3,600 square miles (1,400 sq mi) of grassland in China. Dust storms may remove up to 2,000 square miles (800 sq mi) of topsoil each year, and the intensity of the storms is rising. Additionally, these storms have detrimental impacts on adjacent nations’ agriculture, including Japan, North Korea, and South Korea. The fourth phase of the initiative, which began in 2003, consists of two parts: using aerial seeding to cover large amounts of land where the soil is less parched and providing farmers with financial incentives to plant trees and bushes in more arid places. Additionally, a $1.2 billion supervision system—which will include mapping and surveillance databases—would be put into place. To maintain the sand dunes, the “wall” will include a belt of sand-tolerant plants organized in a checkerboard pattern. To keep sand in place and promote the formation of a soil crust, a gravel platform will be placed close to the plants. The trees should act as a windbreak against dust storms.

Construction achievement

Great achievements have been made in the implementation of the “Three North Program” for more than 40 years. The ecological situation of the program area has been significantly improved, and the annual value of forest ecosystem services has reached 2.34 trillion yuan, which has played an important role in maintaining national ecological security and promoting economic and social development.

Forestry initiatives boost yield per unit of land, protect cultivated fields from sand erosion, prevent the loss of water and soil, and more. They also increase agricultural and livestock productivity. One of the most significant forest types in the forestry program, a shelter forest may directly save fields from wind erosion, increasing grain productivity. Empirical research shows that the yield-improving impacts of agricultural shelterbelts are often greater than 10%, and are greater than 30% in the area with the greatest sandstorm threats. Additionally, windbreak woods may reduce wind speed by 33%, which boosts grass productivity, raises cow survival rates, and lowers animal husbandry losses.

Through the improvement of rural health and labor productivity, forestry projects can boost revenue. Sandstorms and dust are two things that are less common in areas with forests. In the Three-North area of China, sandstorms pose a serious health risk. The amount of atmospheric total suspended particulate matter (such PM10 and PM2.5) increases dramatically during a sandstorm. The respiratory system is badly harmed by inhaling dispersed particulate particles. Sandstorms are significantly diminished by reforestation and ecological restoration in forests.

Research conclusions and suggestions

According to the research, even while the TNSFP’s implementation had a statistically significant effect on the rise of rural income in Inner Mongolia, it was only a slight gain, and there is still a way to go until the goal of “strengthening forestry and enriching farmers” is fully attained. As a result, the socioeconomic repercussions should be given more consideration, and the TNSFP should have raising rural income as its development aim. Only by consistently enhancing rural livelihoods can farmers’ passion for promoting ecological goals be sustained.

A wider employment avenue for farmers is required in addition to occupations directly associated with afforestation, such as the growth of the fruit business, the tourist industry associated with forests, the leisure services sector, and cooperative organizations for forestry. Additionally, it’s critical to improve funding for forestry infrastructure, widen the range of available finance options, and encourage investment-based growth. We advocate boosting afforestation subsidies and ensuring that labor payments are made in full and on schedule. Reduce afforestation duties in the event that overall investment remains unchanged in order to ensure rural profit. To increase farmers’ trust and motivation to invest in afforestation initiatives, we advise putting the collective forest tenure reform into practice and cementing it.

The findings also suggest that artificial afforestation has been the most significant method so far regarding high survival rate and increased wage income for farmers. Nonetheless, the areas of enclosure could be expanded according to the principle of suitability. Since the “three-north” is arid or semi-arid region where the space suitable for closing the land for reforestation is large, and enclosure is a close-natural way of afforestation, the ecosystem gets more stable after conserving forests with the advantages of low cost, quick returns, etc.

The choice of forest type and tree species is important as well. Management of ecological forests should give priority to ecosystem services, and economic forests are needed for harvesting the income of rural residents. In terms of tree species selection, fast-growing and productive forests, mainly poplar, are worth promoting in the rainfall-rich northeastern region, while shrubs and grasses with good drought resistance and sand control are expected to play a key role in ecological restoration in areas with insufficient rainfall. Due to their adaptability and survival rate, native and regionally adapted vegetation species should be planted as much as possible. In addition, the spatial allocation of tree species should avoid competition for nutrient or survival space. The survival of tree species should be a particularly important consideration.

By Yimeng Chen

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