Ex2: Tarim Desert Shelterbelt

Tarim Desert Highway shelterbelt

General Info:

Project by: Chinese government
Location: Taklamakan Desert, China
Scale: 70m x 522 km
Completed: Highway 1995, planting is ongoing

Description:

Tarim Desert Highway Shelterbelt

The Tarim Desert Highway Shelterbelt, crosses the hinterland of the Taklamakan desert for nearly 550 kilometers. The highway was built between 1993 and 1995 to access the region’s vast oil reserves. First the highway was bordered by only a  sand catching checkerboard mesh of straw in order to protect the road from encroaching desert sand dunes. In a later stadium, parts of the road where planted with a single species shelterbelt, built under the auspices of the 3-North Shelterbelt Program. After years of testing more species where introduced. According to the People Daily, some two million rose willows, sacsaoul and buckthorn where planted along the highway in 2001 alone. They were chosen from 50 tree varieties after a decade of experiments that showed that trees with small leaves and a maximum height of two meters proved the most suitable for life in the desert as they lose moisture slowly and are resistant to arid conditions.

The artificial forest of the shelterbelt is irrigated by underground saline water containing 3-30 milligrams per liter of mineral degrees. In a 2006 research the shelterbelt was studied for its ecological stability in order to better manage the artificial ecosystem. Results show that the artificial ecoystem is relatively flimsy, but its stability can be increased by adjusting stand structure and improving the nutrient cycle.

Another 2008 research reports on the comprehensive local environmental effects of the Tarim Desert forest belt infrastructure. Results of the research are remarkable. They show that:

  1. the wind speed and sediment transport in the shelterbelt decreased by 64%-99%;
  2. the soil bulk density decreased while soil porosity, salt content and water content increased when compared to natural mobile sand;
  3. the soil’s firtility improved, first rapid, than slow;
  4. micro-climate effects up to 6m above ground level where positive: when compared to natural mobile sand, the local air temperature was lower, air humidity was higher and soil temperature also lower;
  5. the number of soil microbial species increased significantly, but was not distributed evenly;
  6. no significant effects of groundwater-pumping and forest-irrigation water where found on the ground water level and its salinity.

3-North Shelter Forest Program

According to China’s State Forestry Administration, over 27 percent of the country now suffers from desertification – more than 1,000,000 square miles, or about one-third of the continental United States – impacting the lives of more than 400 million people. This makes desertification one of the major threads

The Three-North Shelter Forest Program, also known as the “Green Great Wall,” is the largest afforestation program in the world. It is a 2,800-mile network of forest belts covering all the major deserts and sandy lands in northwest China and over 40 percent of the country’s entire territory. The project is designed to serve as a windbreak to stop sandstorms, halt the expansion of desertification, and to restore land to a productive and sustainable state. To date, the project has re-planted and protected about 10,000 square miles of forest, achieving more than two-thirds of its goal of 14,500 square miles by 2050.

Further Reading

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TDH 1: Photo by 360Cities.net  Source
TDH 2: Photo by 360Cities.net  Source
TDH 3: Photo by George Steinmetz. Source
TDH 4: Photo by Flickr/’dmcooper_onechib’. Source

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