A research project related to restoring the vegetation cover along northwest China's Qinghai-Tibet railway has been conducted recently and preliminary progress has been made, Chen Guichen, a researcher from the Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences leading the project, has revealed.
Chen predicted that complete recovery would ensure a "green railway" across the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature lists the plateau, with its unique, primitive and fragile natural environment, as a priority area to be given global biodiversity protection.
In the railway building process, relevant environmental departments and construction units strictly selected the earth collection and construction sites, said Chen. "Though the local ecological environment has been affected very little, some of the vegetation inside the site suffered some unavoidable damage because of human activities. Our research is aimed at these areas."
Chen said that the work started in 2001 when researchers selected original plant seeds on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to conduct scientific experiments.
"The experiments center on four aspects: which kinds of plants are suitable for artificial cultivation, whether artificially-cultivated plants can grow in natural conditions on the plateau, whether the plants can live through the winter smoothly, and whether the formed plant groups are stable," said Chen.
Scientists have established three experimental bases in the Tuotuo River and Beilu River in Qinghai Province and Anduo County in the Tibet Autonomous Region. During experiments, they selected six kinds of plant seeds. So far, the plants have been growing healthily.
Chen said that scientists would conduct further selections among the seeds and further observation on their growth. They will make examinations of the stability of the established artificial plant groups and ensure the artificial plant groups would not exert an unhealthy influence on the original local plant groups.
"Scientists will do experiments according to the ecological principles as well as taking the technological and economic feasibility into consideration for best results," said Chen.
The research is expected to be finished before the completion of the railway. Meanwhile, the research achievements will be applied in slope vegetation protection.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway, reaching 5,072 meters above sea level is at the dangerous and precipitous Tanggula Range, linking Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, with Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. It will be 1,956 km long, and have the highest elevation of any railway line in the world.
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong and Daragh Moller, November 28, 2003)