Chinese Innovations Could Reclaim Huge Regions for Farming
A report prepared for the Federation of American Scientists identifies effective, fast-working Chinese methods that can return degraded lands in South China to productive agriculture, reduce dangerous flooding and landslides, and play a key role in blocking climate change.
An area of South China, about the size of California and once covered with dense forests, has been severely damaged and in some place reduced to near desert conditions from forest clearing and poor agricultural practices. "Chinese research that has received little attention even within China, provides key tools for restoring degraded lands to prosperous agriculture while addressing some of the world's most pressing environmental issues," says Dr. Walter Parham, the report's author. "The Chinese would welcome joint projects with U.S. scientists to refine these methods and test them in South China. The results would be directly useful to land restoration efforts in many parts of the world - including those of the U.S."
The Chinese have developed innovative, combined forestry and farming practices that can reestablish vegetation even on land where the topsoil has washed away and where a hostile environment exists for growing plants. The techniques work quickly, are fast, and allow farmers to improve their earnings in 1-3 years.
Restoration efforts are critical for South China struggling to reconcile a growing population and a shrinking arable-land resource. The per capita arable land in some parts of South China today is only about the size of a tennis court.
The process of restoring vegetation and soil quality also pulls large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Restoring land in Southern China could remove nearly as much carbon dioxide each year as US autos produce.
"New approaches to land restoration in South China create economic opportunities and could yield enormous regional and global environmental benefits," says Parham, "They provide a unique common ground for cooperative US-Chinese research."
Scientists who built the first atomic bomb founded the Federation of American Scientists in 1945. More than half of the current American Nobel Laureates today serve on the FAS Board of Sponsors. FAS conducts research, analysis, and advocacy on public policy issues created by advances in science and technology (see www.fas.org).