Demonstration of vegetation restoration and management and utilization of forest resources in the Greater Central Asia (Chifeng site) Phase II

Project title: Demonstration project for vegetation restoration and management and utilization of forest resources in Greater Central Asia (Chifeng sites) (Phase II) [Project ID: 2019P4-INM]
Supervisory agency: Chifeng Municipal Forestry Bureau
Executing agency: Sanyijing State-owned Forest Farm, Aohan Banner
Budget (total/APFNet grant) : USD 1,470,560 (CNY 10,293,920)/USD 1,159,480 (CNY 8,116,360)
Project duration: 36 months; January 2020–December 2022
Target economy: China
Site Location: Aohan Banner, Chifeng City, China
Objectives: Build demonstration site models for vegetation restoration in semi-arid desert areas that improve forest quality and quantity, as well as provide multiple benefits from forests;build a sandy land, dry forest demonstration park to show the diversity of sandy woody species, and to showcase a selection of woody species used for afforestation when combating desertification and restoring vegetation restoration in arid areas; Hold training courses and organize domestic and international exchanges; Use technical measures to increase yields in demonstration forests established in Phase I of the project; Showcase desertification prevention and control achievements through the establishment of an exhibition room; Carry out comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of progress and effectiveness of project activities; Manage and monitor forests established in Phase I to enhance demonstration outcomes of the project.
Expected outputs: Establishment of 72 ha vegetation restoration demonstration forest on semi-arid desert areas; Establishment of 10 ha desert tree species collection garden; Establishment of 39 ha demonstration forest using three rehabilitation models; Management and monitoring of forests established in Phase I; Build a 500 m2 exhibition room showing desertification control achievements of APFNet; Capacity building, including one technical training course and one study tour.
Project background
Desertification is a looming threat in many parts of the world. More than a billion people are affected by desertification, with many 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. It is a fragile and sensitive agro-pastoral ecotone in China, mainly located in Inner Mongolia (92.4 percent). With about one-third of Inner Mongolia classified as desert and more than one-third categorized as degraded land, the fight against desertification is one of the key issues 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. Significant achievements have been made but there is still a strong need for new reforestation models that sustainably fight desertification, as well as methods to increase the production of local non-timber forest products without negatively impacting the land. Like a number of other communities in the Horqin Sandy Land, the people of Aohan Banner are affected by desertification, living in a harsh environment with a underdeveloped local economy and poor living standards. It is a focal area for desertification prevention and control efforts in China. Measures applied here can often be used in other regions facing similar problems in Greater Central Asia. 
From 2017 to 2019, APFNet, in cooperation with the Sanyijing State-owned Forest Farm in Aohan Banner, Inner Mongolia, initiated a demonstration project to address these issues. The project analysed typical approaches for desertification prevention and control in Chifeng and provided practical examples of forest restoration. It demonstrated high-quality vegetation restoration in sandy lands using different afforestation models, as well as showcased a selection of economic tree species, suited to local conditions, to improve forest stand quality and provide multiple benefits. Finally, it also demonstrated combination planting 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 efforts. Starting in 2020, the project entered its second phase. The total budget of the project is USD 1,456,000, of 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 and supervisory agency.

Project featured topics  
Defeating the Yellow Dragon
Sanyijing Forest Farm has used the native poplar tree as its main afforestation species for many years, which resulted in a lowering of the water table as the trees consume relatively high amounts of water. As the eventual lack of water also affected the health of the trees themselves, they were plagued by frequent pests and diseases, which led to degradation and even death of shelter forests in the project area.
Based on the successful experience of using different tree species and restoration approaches in Phase I of the project, Phase II will further demonstrate a range of restoration and rehabilitation models that enrich the biodiversity of forests and improve the overall quality of the forest ecosystem. Phase II encompasses a total area of 230 ha and includes the establishment of 72 ha of forest restoration demonstration areas on semi-arid lands, a 10 ha sandy tree species demonstration garden featuring 80 common species adapted to sandy lands, and the improvement of 39 ha of existing degraded poplar forests by inter-planting with other species.
Restoring vegetation with mixed planting models
Restoration Model 1:
Mongolian pine (Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica) mixed with Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) on 6.67 ha of sandy land. This restoration forest will be planted in the form of a shelterbelt, where six rows of Mongolian pine (4 ha) are followed by four rows of elm (2.67 ha). This planting pattern forms a windbreak and effectively fixes sand and dunes. 

Figure 1: Restoration Model 1 - Mongolian pine mixed with Siberian elm 
Restoration Model 2: Mongolian pine mixed with goldleaf elm (Ulmus pumila variety ‘Jinye’) was planted along a highway. Similar to the previous model, the planting was arranged as a shelterbelt, with four rows of Mongolian pine (6.67 ha) and two rows of goldleaf elm (3.33 ha) to form a windbreak and fix sand.
Figure 2: Restoration Model 2 - Mongolian pine mixed with golden elm
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 species fixing sand inside the shelterbelt.This third model includes three sub-models:

Figure 3: Restoration Model 3 - mixed coniferous and broadleaf trees in square plots
Sub-model 1: Mixture of Mongolian pine and winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus) in a square plot. Mongolian pine is planted as a shelterbelt, and euonymus planted inside the shelterbelt to form a wind break with the pine and fix sand. Nets and sheets will be used to fix sand as well. 
Sub-model 2: Mixture of Mongolian pine and David peach (Prunus davidiana) in a square plot. Mongolian pine is planted as a shelterbelt, and peach trees inside the belt to form a windbreak with the pine and fix the sand, also aided by the use of nets and sheets.
Sub-model 3: Mixture of Mongolian pine and Purpleblow maple (Acer truncatum) in a square plot. Mongolian pine is planted as a shelterbelt, and deciduous maple inside the belt, to form a windbreak with the pine and fix the sand, also aided by the use of nets and sheets. 

Figure 4: Before (left) and after (right) planting of mixed coniferous and broadleaf trees on semi-arid land 
In addition, a 10 ha demonstration garden featuring about 40 common sandy tree and shrub species will be established. 
Tree species 5 evergreen species Pinus tabuliformis, Pinus sylvestris, Picea mongolica, Picea wilsonii, Platycladus orientalis 1.33 ha
7 sandy species Xanthoceras sorbifolia, Acer mono, Acer trucatum, Elaeagnus angustifolia, Tamarix chinensis, Ulmus pumila, Salix matsudana 1.33 ha
6 greening species Prunus davidiana, Euonymus alatus, Malus pruniflolia (wild.), Malus baccata, Armeniaca vulgaris, Armeniaca vulgaris var. xiongyueensis 0.93 ha
5 poplar species Populus xiaozuanica cv.‘Chifengensis’, Populus alba var. pyramidalis, Popolus berolinensis, Populus pioneer, Populus pseudo-simonii 1.67 ha
Shrub species 7 greening species Ligustrum obtuse-folum, Forsythia suspensa, Swida alba, Rosa davurica, Amygdalus triloba, Syringa oblata, Sabina vulgaris 2.07 ha
9 sandy species Caragana microphylla, Caragana korshinskii, Gleditsia sinensis, Amorpha fruticosa, Lycii Fructus, Prunus armeniaca, Salix gordejevii., Salix cheilophila, Hippophae rhamnoides 2.67 ha

Figure 5: Before and after the establishment of demonstration garden 
Rehabilitating degraded forests
There are 4,202 ha of pure poplar forests in Sanyijing Forest Farm, most of which are degraded, consisting of small old trees with severe die-back. Field investigation shows the damaged forest stands are mostly in clusters covering large areas but with several gaps. Using the principle of avoiding logging of existing trees, different tree species were planted underneath the dominant poplar species. Species chosen were drought- and cold resistant with a strong capacity for wind break, as well as soil conservation and sand fixation in arid and semi-arid desert areas. Overall, three different models were showcased:
Model 1: Demonstration conversion forests (13.33 ha) in a shelterbelt formation using Chinese pine (Pinus tabuliformis) and yellowhorn (Xanthoceras sorbifolium), including 6.67 ha newly afforested and 6.67 ha of old plantation kept as a comparison area.
Model 2: Demonstration conversion forests (13.33 ha) with enrichment planting in shelterbelts using Mongolian pine and David peach, which includes 6.67 ha of newly afforested area and 6.67 ha of old plantation kept as a comparison area.

Model 3: Demonstration conversion forest (12 ha) arranged in a square plot, with dragon spruce (Picea asperata) and Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila), including 6.67 ha newly afforested area and 5.33 ha of old plantation kept as a comparison area.
Furthermore, during Phase II, the 109 ha demonstration forest (30 ha pure restoration, 79 ha economic forest) established in Phase I will continue to be managed and monitored.
Building an exhibition room to showcase desertification prevention and control achievements
In Phase II of the project, an exhibition room of 500 m2 will be built to showcase desertification control achievements and techniques, as well as highlight the experiences of APFNet, Aohan Banner and Chifeng Municipality. The construction will be completed by the end of 2020. Achievements will be displayed through a variety of multimedia, including an LED screen with audio and video, exhibition boards and pictures. The site will also be a meeting place for regional exchanges on desertification.

Figure 6: Design of the exhibition room