Saturday, April 25, 2015

Who Has Planted the Most Carbon-Storing Trees?  China's 'Green Great Wall' Takes the Prize

Gobi trees - Trees like these planted along the edge of the Gobi Desert make up much of China's Green Great Wall. (Photo Credit: Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
According to a study published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change, the total amount of carbon stored in all living biomass above the soil has increased globally by almost 4 billion tons since 2003, with China contributing in a notable way to the increase.

"The increase in vegetation primarily came from a lucky combination of environmental and economic factors and massive tree-planting projects in China," said Liu Yi, the study's lead author, in a press release.  Liu is a remote sensing scientist from the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Liu noted that "[v]egetation increased on the savannas in Australia, Africa and South America as a result of increasing rainfall, while in Russia and former Soviet republics we have seen the regrowth of forests on abandoned farmland.  China was the only country to intentionally increase its vegetation with tree planting projects."
China's Green Great Wall -- formally known as the "Three-North Shelter Forest Programme" -- is regarded by some experts as the largest ecological engineering project on the planet.  Since 1978, at least 100,000 square miles of forests have been planted by Chinese citizens across the arid north, in an effort to hold back the creeping Gobi Desert.  Once the project is completed in 2050, a massive belt of trees will stretch from northwestern China's Xinjiang through several northern regions to the country's northeastern part, Heilongjiang province.
The study shows that China's afforestation efforts, together with regrown forests in Russia and neighboring countries, offset roughly half of the carbon loss by tropical deforestation.  While the world is getting greener as a whole, massive vegetation loss is still occurring in many regions, with the greatest decline to be seen on the edge of the Amazon forests and in the Indonesian provinces of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Read more at Who Has Planted the Most Carbon-Storing Trees?  China's 'Green Great Wall' Takes the Prize

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