A trial of 50,000-mu afforestation by "seed ball" aerial seeding in Taklimakan Desert

Date: 04 Dec,2022 Views: 160

Taklimakan Desert, located in the center of Tarim Basin in southern China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is the largest desert in China and the second largest mobile desert in the world. The whole desert covers an area of 330,000 square kilometers, with an average annual precipitation of less than 100 mm and evaporation of 2,500 to 3,400 mm. Taklimakan Desert is known across the country as the "sea of death". In the Uygur tongue, its name means "go in and you won't come out".

In recent days, Alar City, the First Division of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, located in the northern edge of Taklimakan Desert, first tried to carry out an afforestation trial of 50,000 mu by "seed ball" aerial seeding in the desertification area of Taklimakan Desert. This is the first time in China to use "seed ball" to carry out large-scale aerial seeding afforestation in desertification areas. After successful trial, it will provide important practical basis for improving vegetation coverage in Taklimakan Desert, ecological protection in Tarim River Basin and restoration of surrounding ecological environment.

图为飞机正在塔克拉玛干沙漠荒漠化区域进行“树种球”飞播试验造林作业(林国强 摄)

The picture shows the plane carrying out the afforestation operation of "seed ball" aerial seeding trial in the desertification area of Taklimakan Desert (photo by Lin Guoqiang)

At the 10th Regiment Lanpowan General Airport, the reporter saw that the staff were busy transferring the finished "seed ball" processed from the Shandong base to the transport plane responsible for the aerial seeding task after weighing. China already has relatively mature technology in aerial seeding afforestation, with advantages such as high efficiency, low cost, and precise operation areas.

图为工作人员正在对运输到机场的“树种球”进行称重装运飞机(林国强 摄)

The picture shows the staff weighing and loading the "seed ball" transported to the airport (photo by Lin Guoqiang)

Under the natural environmental conditions of the Taklimakan Desert, this aerial seeding method is a bold attempt to afforest in a large area and restore the ecology of the desert region, which can accumulate experience for the comprehensive control and restoration of vegetation in the desertification region in Alar City. In order to ensure the survival rate and germination rate of seeds, Sinoway Forest Resources (Beijing) Co., Ltd., which is responsible for aerial seeding afforestation work, has carried out more than 6,000 mu of aerial seeding afforestation trial in advance by means of "seed ball" aerial seeding through cooperation with Shaanxi University of Technology since May this year, ensuring that 50,000 mu of aerial seeding afforestation work is carried out with high efficiency and high quality around the Taklimakan Desert, truly realizing "three bumper harvests" of ecological, social and economic benefits.

图为中碳森林资源(北京)有限公司负责人与十团蓝泊湾机场负责人查看“树种球”质量(林国强 摄)

The picture shows the director of Sinoway Forest Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd. and the person in charge of the 10th Regiment Lanpowan Airport checking the quality of the "seed ball" (photo by Lin Guoqiang)

Wang Xinpeng, general manager of Sinoway Forest Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd. said: "We respond to the national call for "dual carbon" (carbon peak and carbon neutrality). As a physical factory, we are committed to reducing carbon emissions through afforestation and ecological restoration in desertification areas. The cost of aerial seeding afforestation is slightly lower, and the water shortage is the biggest challenge. So, we try to sow all kinds of plant seeds, even if the survival rate is 1% in Taklimakan Desert, which will be a great progress for us."

图为运输飞机正在播撒“树种球” (林国强 摄)

The picture shows the transport plane spraying "seed balls" (photo by Lin Guoqiang)

In order to adapt to the harsh natural conditions and geographical environment of arid and rainless desert areas in the Taklimakan Desert, Sinoway Forest Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd., in combination with local actual conditions, prepared a "tree ball" by mixing and coating drought and salt tolerant tree species such as diversiform-leaved poplar, rose willow, etc. and grass seeds with red clay, coconut bran, and organic matter, and conducted aerial seeding afforestation experiments in batches. Through continuous process comparison, the volume and density of the "tree ball" are finally determined to ensure stable water absorption and germination rate when falling on the ground.

Wang Xinpeng said: "Through early experiments this year, we have improved the ' seed ball' process. Its volume and density are also smaller, and its mass is relatively smaller. When sown from an airplane, the spraying coverage of the seed ball is much larger, and the overall efficiency is nearly three times higher than the spraying we conducted in May. The overall effect is very good."

Alar Dingjiang Navigation Co., Ltd. undertook all the afforestation tasks of "seed ball" aerial seeding trial. In order to ensure the efficiency and quality of aerial seeding of "seed ball", Alar Dingjiang Navigation Co., Ltd. selected experienced crew members in the early stage, and conducted comprehensive maintenance on the plane performing the operation, and adjusted the number of plane sorties according to the aerial seeding situation at any time.

Zhong Zhiyong, the person in charge of Alar Dingjiang Navigation Co., Ltd., said: "Our daily sowing area can reach thousands of acres, and the overall efficiency is far higher than that of artificial afforestation. This aerial seeding method is very suitable for operation in desertification areas. So far, we have flown more than 30 sorties, covering an entire sowing area of around 20,000 mu. Later, this model will be gradually extended to the entire Xinjiang region in the future, striving to help improve the local ecological environment."

Afforestation is a long process, and it takes decades or even hundreds of years from a tree to a forest. Sinoway Forest Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd. initially chose to conduct multi frequency and long cycle "tree ball" aerial seeding afforestation trials in the intersection environment of desert and oasis, without artificial intervention. After the success of the trial, Sinoway Forest will gradually extend to the desert area in a large area according to the actual situation, providing an important practical basis for the subsequent aerial seeding afforestation of "seed balls" to form a green ecological barrier combining trees, shrubs and turf.

"Afforestation in arid desert areas is a slow process, but we will insist on doing this." Wang Xinpeng said with confidence, "This year, we plan to complete the aerial seeding task of 50,000 mu by the end of the year. The short-term plan for the future is to complete the aerial seeding afforestation task of about 300,000 mu around the city of Alar in the First Division within five years, striving to achieve results in this city on the northern edge of Taklimakan, and accumulating some experience for afforestation in desert areas."

In 2022, Alar City, the First Division, completed a total greening area of 277,500 mu, including 14,500 mu of artificial afforestation, 126,000 mu of degraded forest restoration, 100,000 mu of sand closure for afforestation and 10,000 mu of grassland ecological restoration. Through the joint efforts of several generations of children in Alar, it has achieved a "historical miracle" that sand forcing humans to retreat. In the future, Alar City, the First Division, will earnestly and fully assume the responsibility and mission of implementing the "forest chief scheme", to accelerate the promotion of high-quality development of forest and grass, continuously improve the work system and mechanism of the forest chief scheme, innovate development concepts, integrate ecological protection and economic development, give full play to economic efficiency, social efficiency and ecology benefit, and ensure that the forest chief scheme is transformed from "fully established" to "fully effective". (Reporter: Zha Yanrong; correspondent: Lin Guoqiang)