The management techniques used to combat desertification near Beijing, and evaluation of the effectiveness of this effort.

Essay by KeirCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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Overall Aim(s) of Investigation

The two aims of this investigation were to explore the management techniques (primarily reforestation) used to combat desertification in the Huang Yang Tan area, and to evaluate the effectiveness of this effort.

Introduction & Hypotheses

Under investigation is the 14.6 hectare area named Huang Yang Tan, literally translated, "Yellow Sheep Desert". Located in Xuan Hua County's Zhang Bei district, adjoining Zhang Jia Kou city, Huang Yang Tan is 138 kilometers northwest of China's sprawling metropolitan capital Beijing.

Huang Yang Tan is a semi-arid region, as defined by the Thornthwaite aridity index comparing precipitation and evapotranspiration. With a continental climate and an average annual precipitation of around 400 mm compared to yearly evapotranspiration rates of around 2000 mm, the area has been experiencing severe soil erosion for the past five decades. Huang Yang Tan is one part of China's 9766 total hectares of land currently defined as arid or semi-arid desert, and it is one of the closest and most threatening desertified regions to the large cultural and political center of Beijing.

Consequently, Huang Yang Tan has recently received the attention of government officials and environmentalists, who are working together to mitigate the problem.

The hypotheses that will be analyzed in this fieldwork is that rehabilitation of vegetation is the most effective solution to the desertification taking place in the Zhang Bei area. Study of desertification through textbooks and extensive media research of newspaper articles, etc. revealed that human factors such as overgrazing, overcultivation and excessive exploitation of forest deplete vegetation and are common primary causes of desertification. Forests provide a natural barrier to Æolean (wind) erosion and engage in a cycle of decomposition that enriches the soil with vital nutrients. Shrubbery and grass are also essential to preventing erosion by stabilizing and holding soil together through...