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Alpine grassland degradation, vegetation regeneration and its sustainable development on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Author: Update time: 07-20-2009 Printer Text Size: A A A

Recent years, the alpine grasslands on Tibetan Plateau are suffering from quite severe degradation which has resulted in not only a decline in herbage yield but also a deterioration in the ecological environment due to several human activities and climate change, such as severe pest destruction, species loss, land desertification, lake shrinkage, wetland degradation, soil erosion, occurrence of sand storm, etc. The Tibetan Plateau is at a crossroad. Serious grassland degradation is endangering eco-environment of this region. The degraded grassland occupied about one third area of the all investigated grasslands on the Tibetan Plateau have suffered severe degradation, and many independent research programs have concluded that the current productivity of plateau grasslands was about 30% less than the productivity measured only two decades ago. At the same time, the native fauna of the Tibetan Plateau has been greatly reduced, and nearly every medium-to-large mammal species is now classified as threatened. It has become increasingly clear that the alpine grassland ecosystem on Tibetan Plateau is in danger of losing much of its native species, breaking the balance of grasslands ecology, and its ability to support sustainable pastoralism, the region's primary economic activity (Foggin and Smith 1996; Lai and Smith 1996).

Facing this serious situation, local government and the scientists have paid full attention to grassland degradation in order to restore degraded grassland, protect natural pasture and eco-environment. There are evidences for expanding grassland degradation in the region caused by over grazing and unfavorable climate changes. Integrated management is the most effective approach for regenerating the productivity of degraded pasturelands. Fencing, reseeding, scarification are the common methods for revival of vegetative cover for degraded pastureland(Zhao & Zhou 1999). Harnessing of ecological principles and biological processes, the grazing pattern, grazing density, age structure of herd, sheep and yaks feedlot fattening, sustainable livestock production system are approached according to serial pilot studies in the region. It is urgent to analyze the current features of the degraded grasslands, the control measures and its sustainable development, which will be much beneficial to improving grassland productivity, restoring degraded grassland and the sustainable development of the whole region.

Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, CAS
Add: 23# Xinning Lu, Xining, Qinghai, China 810008
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