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Scientists Evaluate the Stability of Sand-Binding Vegetation in Different Climatic Zones
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In recent years, more and more sandstorms from desert areas swept over the vast areas of northern China. Due to the expansion of desert areas, desertification has been a crucial environmental issue on a global scale, and has begun affect human’s subsistence and development. 

Over the past 60 years, scientists from Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources (NIEER) have established artificial sand-binding vegetation on 6000,000 ha of wind-blown sand hazard areas of northern China, which serve as an important ecological barrier. 

However, many problems have arisen in practice, such as large areas of artificial sand-binding vegetation degrading over the decades. Therefore, how to maintain the stability of sand-binding vegetation in ecological restoration is a large challenge for ecologists and land managers. 

Recently, a research group led by LI Xinrong from the Shapotou Desert Research & Experimental Station, NIEER of Chinese Academy of Sciences, together with colleagues from the Gansu Agricultural University, explored the effect of a stochastic daily precipitation mechanism on soil moisture and vegetation cover after the establishment of sand-binding vegetation, by using an eco-hydrological model coupling and the dynamics of sand-binding vegetation cover and soil moisture, to evaluating the stability of sand binding vegetation in different climatic zones. 

The simulation results indicate that herbaceous vegetation cover, woody vegetation cover and soil moisture increase nonlinearly with increasing annual rainfall. Specifically, herbaceous vegetation cover first increased and then decreased with increasing annual rainfall. Woody vegetation cover increased by a power-law function within the total community cover, and soil moisture increased exponentially. 

In addition, the eco-hydrological thresholds in different climatic zones and in typical revegetated sandy desert regions of China were determined using an eco-hydrological model. 

These indexes will not only help to promote dryland ecosystem management and maintain the sustainability of wind-breaks and sand-binding benefits but will also provide a quantifiable reference standard for vegetation recovery and reconstruction in sandy areas in the future. 

The results of this study are important for understanding dryland ecosystems, particularly the eco-hydrological threshold, which is important for evaluating and managing the stability of sand-binding vegetation in different climatic zones in the arid and semiarid regions of China. 

The research achievements have been published in the journal Ecological Indicators in an article entitled “The eco-hydrological threshold for evaluating the stability of sand-binding vegetation in different climatic zones”. 


LI Xinrong

Shapotou Desert Research & Experimental Station, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China.

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