Fighting Desertification with Innovative Restoration Models
Fighting Desertification with Innovative Restoration Models
Project title: Demonstration Project of Vegetation Restoration and Management and Utilization of Forest Resources in Greater Central Asia (Chifeng sites) (Phase II)
Supervisory agency: Chifeng Municipal Forestry Bureau
Executing agency: Sanyijing State-owned Forest Farm, Aohan Banner
Total/APFNet project grant:
USD 1,470,560 (CNY10,293,920) / USD1,159,480 (CNY 8,116,360)
Project duration: 01/2020-12/2022, 36 months
Target economy: China
Site Location: Aohan Banner, Chifeng City, China
1. To build demonstration models for vegetation restoration in semi-arid desertification areas, to improve forest quality and quantity, as well as multi-functional benefits of the forest.
2. To build a sandy land dry forest demonstration park, to show the diversity of sandy woody species, and to showcase a selection of woody species selection used for afforestation when combating desertification and attempting to restore vegetation restoration in arid areas.
3. To improve forest quality through demonstration how to restore and enrich degraded forests.
4. To hold training courses and carry out domestic and international exchanges.
5. To conduct high-yield technical measures for the demonstration forests established in project phase I.
6. To showcase desertification prevention and control achievements through the establishment of an exhibition room.
7. To carry out comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of the progress and effectiveness of the project.
8. To tend, manage and monitor forests established in Phase I, to enhance demonstration effects of the project area from phase I.
Expected outputs:
1. 72.34 ha of vegetation restoration demonstration forests on semi-arid desertification area are established.
2. A 10 ha desert tree species collection garden is established.
3. 38.66 ha of demonstration forests with 3 rehabilitation models are established.
4. Forests established in phase I tended, managed, and monitored.
5. A 500 m2 exhibition room showing desertification control achievements of APFNet is established;
6. Capacity building, including 1 technical training and 1 study tour conducted.
Desertification is a looming threat in many parts of the world. More than a billion people are affected by desertification, with a number of them living in Greater Central Asia.
Horqin Sandy Land is one of the four major sandy lands in China across the three provinces of Inner Mongolia, Jilin and Liaoning. Its main part is located in Inner Mongolia, accounting for 92.4% of the total area. It is a fragile and sensitive agro-pastoral ecotone in China.
With about a third of Inner Mongolia is classified as desert and even larger parts categorized as “degraded land”, the fight against desertification is one of the key tasks in the area.
Since rural reforms in the 1980s, both state and local governments in China have devoted great efforts to combating desertification through a number of eco-environmental restoration campaigns. Although significant achievements have been made, there is still a strong need for new reforestation models that sustainably fight desertification, as well as for methods to increase the production of local non-timber forest products without negatively impacting the land.
Aohanqi, like a number of other areas in the Horqin Sandy Land, is yet another typical region negatively affected by desertification, the people living in a harsh environment with a backward local economy and poor living standards. It is thus a focal area for desertification prevention and control efforts in China. Measures applied here can often be used in other regions in Greater Central Asia facing similar problems.
From 2017 to 2019, APFNet, in cooperation with the Sanyijing State-Owned Forest Farm in Aohanqi (also known as Aohan Banner), Inner Mongolia,conducted a demonstration project addressing these issues. The project summarized typical models for desertification prevention and control in Chifeng and provided a theoretical basis and practical examples for Greater Central Asia. It demonstrated high-quality vegetation restoration in sandy lands and different afforestation models, as well as showcased a selection of economic tree species suiting local conditions to improve forest stand quality and multi-functional benefits of forests. Finally, it also demonstrated the combination of economic and medicinal species with timber tree species to diversify local income sources.
Forest vegetation restoration is a long-term, continuous process in need of constant and continuous efforts. Starting in 2020, the project entered its 2nd phase. The total budget of the project is USD 1,456,000, among which USD 1,148,000 will be granted by APFNet, and USD 308,000 will be contributed in cash and in-kind by the Executing Agency (EA) and the Supervisory Agency (SA).
Defeating the Yellow Dragon
Sanyijing Forest Farm has used the native poplar as its main afforestation species for many years, which resulted in a lowering of the local water table as the species consumes relatively much water. As the eventual lack of water also affected the health of the trees themselves, they were eventually plagued by frequent pests and diseases, which led to degradation and even death of the shelter forest in the project area.
Based on the successful experience of Phase I of the project, Phase II is to further demonstrate restoration and rehabilitation models that address those issues, so as to enrich the biodiversity of forest ecosystem in the project area and improve the overall quality of the forest and ecosystem.
Restore vegetation with more mixed models
The implementation area of project phase II is 230 ha, which includes the establishment of 72.34 ha of forest restoration demonstration area on semi-arid lands, build a 10 ha sandy tree species demonstration garden featuring 80 common species adapted to sandy lands and improve 38.66 ha of existing degraded poplar forests by enriching it with other species.
Restoration Model 1: Mongolian pine(Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica)mixed with elm (Ulmus pumila) on 6.67 ha of sandy land. Specifically, this restoration will be planted in the form for a shelterbelt, where 6 rows of Mongolian pine are followed by 4 rows of elm, totaling in 4ha of Mongolian pine and 2.67ha of elm. A planting pattern like this forms a windbreak and effectively fixes sand and dunes.
Figure 1 Restoration model of Mongolian pine mixed with elm 
Restoration Model 2: Mongolian pine mixed with goldleaf elm (Ulmus pumila varierty ‘Jinye’) was planted along the highway. Similar to the previous model the planting was once again arranged as a shelterbelt, with 4 rows of Mongolian pine (totaling 6.67 ha) and 2 rows of goldleaf elm (totaling 3.33 ha) to form the wind-break and fix sand.

Figure 2 Restoration Model 2.
Restoration Model 3 : Mixed coniferous and broadleaf trees on 55.67 ha of semi-arid land, all planted in square plots with one species acting as a shelterbelt, the other mainly fixing sand inside.

Figure 3 Restoration model 3 of planting one chosen species inside
the plot to fix sand, and planting lines of
Mongolian pine in squares acting as a shelterbelt

This activity includes 3 sub-models:
Sub-Model 1: Mixture of Mongolian pine and winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus) in a square plot, plant Mongolian pine outside as shelter-belt, and euonymus inside the belt to form a wind break with the pine and fix sand with the deciduous species. Nets and sheets will be used as well. 
Sub-Model 2: Mixture of Mongolian pine and David peach (Prunus davidiana) in a square plot, plant Mongolian pine outside as the shelterbelt, and the peach inside the belt, like in the previous model to form a wind break with the pine and fix the sand with the deciduous species, which will also be aided by the use of nets and sheets.
Sub-Model 3: Mixture of Mongolian pine and Purpleblow maple (Acer truncatum) in a square plot, plant Mongolian pine outside as the shelterbelt, and the deciduous maple inside the belt, as before to form a windbreak with the pine and fix the sand with the deciduous species, also aided by the use of nets and sheets.
Figure 4 Before (L) and after (R) planting of 55.67 ha of
 coniferous and broadleaf trees on semi-arid land.
In addition, a demonstration garden, featuring about 40 common sand species, will also be established.  
Figure 5 Before and after the establishment of the demonstration garden.
Rehabilitate degraded forests
There are 4,202 ha of pure poplar forests in Sanyijing Forest Farm, most of which are fairly degraded, consisting mostly of small old trees with severe die-back. Field investigation shows the damage and the die-back of the forest stands mostly appears clusters covering large areas and with several gaps.

In Phase II of the project, based on the principle of avoiding the logging of the existing trees, different tree species are planted underneath the dominant species. Species were chosen to be drought- and cold resistant with a strong capacity for wind-break, as well soil conservation and sand fixation capacities in arid and semi-arid desertification areas. Overall 3 different models on how to rehabilitate these stands are showcased:
Model 1: 13.33 ha of demonstration conversion forests in shelterbelt formation using Chinese pine (Pinus Sinensis) and yellowhorn(Xanthoceras sorbifolium), including 6.67 ha being newly afforested and 6.67 ha of old plantation kept as a comparison area.
Model 2: 13.33 ha of demonstration conversion forests with enrichment planting in shelterbelts, using Mongolian pine and David peach, which include 6.67 ha of newly afforested area and 6.67 ha of old plantation kept as a comparison area.

Model 3: 12 ha of demonstration conversion forest arranged in a square plot, with species of dragon spruce (Picea asperata) and Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila, including 6.67 ha of newly afforested area and 5.33 ha of old plantation kept as a comparison area.

Furthermore, during the new phase of the project, efforts to further tend, manage, and monitor the 109 ha of demonstration forest (30 ha pure restoration, 79 ha of economic forest) established in Phase I will be continued.
Build exhibition room to showcase desertification prevention and control achievements
In Phase II of the project, an exhibition room of 500 m2 will be established, with the purpose of showcasing desertification control achievements and the respective techniques used, as well as the general experience of APFNet, Aohan Banner and Chifeng Municipality. The construction will be completed by the end of 2020.
The achievements will be displayed through a variety of multimedia, including an LED screen with audio and video, exhibition boards and pictures, to give all-round publicity and display the best methods of sand prevention and control.
This would also be a platform forregional exchanges on desertification. 

Fig. 6 Design of the exhibition room