Natural grassland in China covers an area of 393 million hectares, taking up approximately 41.7% of the national territory. It is about three times of the arable land and over two times of woodland. Among them, 331 million hectares are grassland available for human use, accounting for 84.3% of the total.
China has huge grassland resources. However, the grassland per capita is rather small with only 0.33 ha, which is only half of the world average.
What's more, the grassland resource has quite uneven distribution among different provinces and autonomous regions across China. Among them, Tibet Autonomous Region tops the list with a highest per capita area of over 30 hectares; Qinghai Province ranks the second with per capita area of 6.91 ha followed by Xinjiang Autonomous Regions and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with 2.93 ha and 2.84 ha respectively. The per capita area of grassland of other provinces is under 0.5 ha.
Plague of insect pests and rats In 2004, the total grassland area subject to insect pests and rats across mainland China reached 68.87 million ha, causing a direct economic loss of 6.198 billion yuan RMB counted in 450 kg of grass lost per hectare and 0.2 yuan RMB per kg.
A total area of 38.93 million ha grassland was plagued by rats in 2004. Among them, 21.2 million ha were severely damaged. Six provinces or autonomous regions including Qinghai, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Sichuan and Xinjiang were under relatively severe plague of rats covering an area of 33.87 million ha, 18.67 million ha of which were under severe conditions, accounting for 87% and 88% of the total respectively. Major breeds of rat causing the plague were pika, gerbil,
Myospalax fontanieri, field mouse and ground squirrel, etc.
2004 is one of the years with most serious plagues of insect pests on grassland across China. The total plagued area reached to 39.22 million ha, 15 million ha of which under serious plague. The primary insect pest was grassland locust plaguing 17.73 million ha of grassland, taking up 60% of the total affected area. Other major insect pests were meadow webworm, white puncture vine noctuid and grassland caterpillar affecting 4.34 million, 3.44 million and 1.38 million ha respectively. Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region suffered the most serious plague of insect pests covering an area of 15.27 million ha, accounting for 52% of the total plagued area of grasslands across mainland China. It was followed by Heilongjiang, Xinjiang, Qinghai and Sichuan with affected area ranging from 1.3 million ha to 2 million ha.
Grassland Degradation Presently, 90% of the available natural grasslands of China experienced various degrees of degradation with an annual growth of 2 million ha. The trend that ecological environment was improved at local level while the overall situation was deteriorating had not been changed. The underlying reasons for accelerated grassland degradation were as the follows: 1) the trend of overgrazing had not been curbed fundamentally; 2) grassland damages resulting from irrational development, industrial pollution, plague of insect pests and rats; 3) frequent activities such as illegal and reckless collection and digging of herbs or other commercial plants, leading to the damage of grasslands.
Grassland Fire and Snow Disasters In 2004, there were altogether 489 grassland fires across mainland China. Among them, 422 arose warnings, 62 were general grassland fires, 4 big grassland fires and 1 very big grassland fire disaster. A total of 25,100 ha were subject to fires with 1 people wounded in firefighting and 50 livestock were burned dead (or wounded). This is a good record in many years. In 2004, 5 provinces such as Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu and Tibet experienced snow and freeze disasters, affecting over 1 million people and more than 15 million livestock. As a result, 99,300 cattle or sheep died from the disasters, leading to direct economic losses over 100 million yuan RMB.
【Implementing the project of restoring pasture to grassland】 On the basis of the trial work in 2003, the authority continued the implementation of the
"project of restoring pasture back to grassland" in 2004. The Central Government had planned the development of 6 million ha grassland. Among them, 2.633 million ha were fenced as grazing-free area; 3.167 million ha were fenced for temporary cease of grazing, 200,000 ha for zoning and rotation grazing. The total investment of this project reached 1.6 billion yuan RMB, of which 1.12 billion yuan came from the Central Government and the rest 480 million yuan were invested by local governments. This huge project was implemented in 108 key counties (banners and corps fields) of the provinces of Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Ningxia, Yunnan, and Tibet as well as the Xingjiang Production & Construction Corps. When constructing fencing on the grassland, the Central Government also distributed subsidized feed and grain to the herdsmen affected by the project. Also, the herdsmen were guided to implement graze banning, breaking and rotation systems, raise livestock in the pen in a bid to gradually alter the traditional production pattern of solely relying on grazing on natural grassland. In doing so, the grazing pressure on the natural grasslands could be alleviated. As a result, grassland that had already experienced degradation and desertification was given a chance for recovery so as to exert its self-restoration function and rehabilitate the vegetation.
【Constructing grassland fencing, implementing the graze banning, breaking and zoned rotating System】
After the implementation of the projects of converting pasture to grassland in the Urad Middle Banner and the Urad Rear Banner of Bayannur League of Inner Mongolia, the average height of the grasses rose by 68.2%, vegetation coverage increased by 9.5% and the output of hay rose by 25.3% as compared with the previous years. The percentage of high-quality pastures increased to certain degree. Some near-extinct graze species such as Mongolia wheatgrass and Chinese wild rye reappeared, and the deteriorating trend of grassland eco-environment was effectively curbed. Ever since the implementation of graze banning throughout Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, over 1 million mu (15 mu = 1 hectare) flowing or semi-flowing sand dunes had been fixed, the vegetation had a good chance to recover, and the deterioration and desertification trend of the grassland witnessed a reverse with the grassland growing lush and long.
【Developing artificial grassplots】 Since the implementation of the project of restoring pasture back to grassland in Dageda Village of Yanchi County in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, 80,000 mu (or 5360 ha) of clovers were planted with per capita area of 8 mu (or 0.536 ha). 200 stables and warm sheds were built, and 500 high-quality breed ewes were purchased. With the adoption of intensive and highly-efficient development mode for livestock farming on grassland, the goat-raising number increased from 1800 in 2000 to 8600 in 2004; the number of goats for sale increased from 320 in 2000 to 5,600 in 2004; and per capita net income grew from RMB 700 yuan to 1700 yuan. Consequently, the village had primarily established the development mode featured by relying on natural grassland, supported by livestock-raising and grass plantation, increasing the income by grazing.
【Satellite monitoring on stalk burning】 In 2004, the State Environmental Protection Administration employed satellite remote-sensing technology to carry out online monitoring of the stalk burning across China during the summer and autumn season.
【Making full use of stalk resources】 The herdsmen in Anxi County of Gansu Province made full use of the abundant stalk resources in the region and realized stable and shed-based livestock raising since the implementation of graze banning policy. Meanwhile, they phased out the sheep species suitable for grazing and introduced 47,000 good quality sheep suitable for stable rearing such as small-tailed sheep and Boer goat. By doing so, the number of the sheep flock was reduced from 200~300 to around 100 for each household for stable rearing.