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Xinjiang deserts getting wet amid global warming
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The Taklimakan Desert and the Gurbantunggut Desert on each side of the Tianshan Mountains in west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have become wetter and greener thanks to the global warming and human efforts.

The effects of global warming, together with the greening project along with Tarim oil exploitations, have significantly changed regional climate patterns in the central part of the Taklimakan Desert. According to statistics from a meteorological station in Bayinguoleng Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, the number of days with precipitation was 33 in the area this year, much more than the average number of previous years.

The record for this decade also indicates that last year's relative humidity was four percent higher than that of 1998, while the number of windy days decreased by 13 days.

The green belt in the center of the Taklimakan Desert has expanded year after year since 1994. The Tarim Oilfield, in cooperation with the Institute of Ecology and Geography under the China Academy of Sciences, undertook a reforestation project in the hinterlands of the desert. They sorted out over 80 varieties of trees that could adapt successfully to desert climate conditions. Species included the Chinese tamarisk twig, the Mongolian calligonum and the sacsaoul. To aid the effort conservationists used traditional underwater irrigation methods, called karez. Some precious herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), such as saline cistanche, also took root.

Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and local governments around the Gurbantunggut Desert have made great efforts in protecting the indigenous sacsaoul forest in the past three decades. Additionally, they have also raised the sapling survival rate via air seeding. The sacsaoul forest coverage in the desert extends 15 million mu (about one million ha), according to a recent survey conducted by an expert panel from the State Forestry Administration.

Forest cover protects cropland from sandstorms and increases annual precipitation. Climate change in turn facilitates plant growth and improves the ecological environment in the long run.

Statistics show that the eighth agricultural construction division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps plants some 800,000 mu of sacsaoul forest cover every year. The forest cultivated by a military unit, the 149th regiment, has been checked and accepted by northwest China forestry authorities as "National Reserve of Non-commercial Forests".

The protection of the non-commercial forest has altered local climate conditions and raised the average cotton yield to 400 kilograms per mu.

(China.org.cn by Huang Shan November 29, 2007)

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