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EO Technologies Play a Role in Combating Land Degradation
 Date: 2017-10-09  Page Views:

The 13th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) wrapped up on September 16 in Ordos, a desert city in north China’s Inner Mongolia, with more than 100 countries committed to setting voluntary targets to stop desertification by 2030.

Desertification is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind. Up to 2 billion hectares of land are degraded worldwide. UNCCD figures show averagely 12 million hectares are lost every year and 169 countries are affected by land degradation, desertification and drought.

China, as a country easily affected by desertification and climate change, has long been devoted to finding effective ways to tackle land degradation. China is the first country in the world to issue a law on prevention and control of desertification in 2002. The country has also carried out projects to curb desertification, including the Three-North Shelter Forest Program, Beijing-Tianjin Sand Source Control Project, and massive tree-planting projects. The Beijing-Tianjin Sand Source Control Project, for example, is one of success stories. In 2000, the city was hit by 13 sand storms. The frequency of such storms has been reduced to two to three a year.

EO technologies, capable of providing long spatial and temporal monitoring data, play an important role in performance assessment of such projects. During the conference, the "Evaluation of Vegetation Restoration Efficiency in the First Phase2000 - 2010of Beijing-Tianjin Sandstorm Source Control Project" as one of the thematic studies, was reported by China.

The study was led by Dr. LI Xiaosong from RADI, which makes use of relevant EO data to compare such parameters as land use, vegetation productivity and the biomass of the aboveground biomass before and after the first phase of the Beijing-Tianjin sandstorm source management project from 2000 to 2010. The study concludes that the land cover changes show obvious vegetation restoration characteristics, significant enhancement of vegetation vigor / net primary productivity, and increasing carbon fixation efficiency.

The study, from the perspective of science-based parameters, showcases the effectiveness of this project in combating desertification, reveals great potential of using EO technologies for performance assessment, and, in the long run, will contribute to reach the goal of zero net land degradation, one of the sustainable development goals by 2030 defined by UN.

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