China's grasslands have been seriously overgrazed, and there are serious problems with desertification, erosion, sand storms, and grass fires. The Ministry of Agriculture's 2009 pasture monitoring report--issued on March 22--shows that authorities are now paying a lot of attention to these problems. There have been marginal improvements but the situation is still "serious."
The monitoring effort is a huge undertaking that involves the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, climate and weather organizations, regional research institutes, and local animal husbandry and extension stations in 22 "key" grassland provinces. The monitoring uses satellite remote sensing data, ground monitoring data from 400 counties, and pastoral family surveys.
The following is my translation of the summary:
The report says that 2009 was dry and hot, producing serious drought. Production conditions were not as good as the previous year. Natural pasture fresh grass output was 938.4 million metric tons, down 1% from the previous year. The adjusted dried grass output was 293.6 mmt, down 1%. Livestock capacity was about 230.988 million sheep-equivalent units, down .34% from the previous year. Nationally, the natural pasture stocking rate was 31.2% over capacity, down 0.8 percentage points.
"The State implemented ecological construction projects in pasture areas, concentrated management of ecologically fragile and restored pasture, effectively curbing the deterioration of the grassland ecological environment. The ecological environment has clearly improved in some regions. Pasture retirement and fencing projects were carried out on 45 million hectares--the growth of grass was 75 percent more than in non-project areas."
"The project to control sand storms in Beijing and Tianjin covered 3.43 million hectares. The area of serious desertification was reduced by 20 percent or more. Grass was cultivated on 107,000 ha of rocky desertified area. Bare rock area was reduced by 7 percentage points. As of 2008, national fenced grassland totaled 62 million hectares, livestock grazing rotation area covered 98.67 million hectares, a cumulative reclaimed grass area of 28.67 million hectares. In spring 2009, there were 7 sandstorms, 9 less than in 2000."
"In summary, the phenomena of grassland degradation, desertification, salinization, rocky desertification are still very serious. Nationally, the key natural pasture areas are still overstocked by 30% or more; erosion affects 13.37 million hectares;
rat infestations (?) affect 61.53 million hectares; grassland drought, fires, snow and other disasters are serious and the ability to prevent and deal with disasters is not strong enough. The pasture monitoring system is relatively weak and there is still a ways to go to meet the objectives. Strengthening grassland preservation, protecting national ecological safety, and advancing grassland area scientific development tasks continue to be arduous."