The total area of China’s Windbreak and Sand-Fixation Forests has increased by 154% after 40 years of construction of the Three-North Shelterbelt Program (TNSP). China's desertification area has greatly declined since 2000 and TNSP contributes to the reduction of desertification by around 15 percent.
On the 24th December, 2018, the State Council Information Office of China held a press briefing on the “comprehensive assessment of the 40-year construction of the Three-North Shelterbelt Program”.
LIU Dongsheng, deputy head of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, said at the press briefing that over the past 40 years, the total afforestation in Northwest China, North China and Northeast China has been preserved over 30.143 million hectares, and the forest coverage rate has increased from 5.05% to 13.57%, with the total standing forest stock increasing from 0.72 billion cubic meters to 3.33 billion cubic meters.
“China’s desertification area has greatly reduced since 2000. The first reason is due to TNSP, and the second is due to people’s increasing awareness of ecological protection since the implementations of TNSP and other ecological projects,” ZHU Jiaojun, director of the Institute of Applied Ecology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at the press briefing.
ZHU said that the most important factor leading to desertification was human disturbances, such as excessive deforestation and indiscriminate grazing activities in Ecologically Fragile Areas in the Three-North Regions. The comprehensive assessment on the 40-year construction of TNSP showed that TNSP contributed to the reduction of desertification by around 15 percent, largely due to its roles on mild desertification. The prevention and control of desertification was mainly affected by human disturbance and climate. The increasing ecological awareness of people in the Three-North Regions was of great significance for the prevention and control of desertification.
Regarding the sandstorm problem in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region that caused public concern, ZHU said that there were at least two important conditions for the occurrence of sandstorms, namely, strong winds and sand sources. According to statistics, the time of sandstorms per year dropped from 5.1 days in 1978 to 0.1 days in 2015. TNSP played a role in reducing sandstorms by covering the ground and fixing the sources of sand. A bigger reason (for the reduced sandstorms), however, was the climate. Global warming increased the temperature of grasslands and forests in Siberia, resulting in a smaller atmospheric pressure difference (between the high and low pressure regions) and fewer times of strong winds.
“The prevention and control of sandstorms can be done not only through a project, but also through efforts of the entire society, and even the improvement of global environment,” ZHU said.