China’s Great Green Wall: A Strategy to Counter Desertification

by Tatsuya Nakamura
Great Green Wall China

This piece features an image of the Taklamakan Desert in China’s Tarim Basin, captured on November 11, 2023, by the MODIS sensor aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Surrounded by mountains on three sides, this northwestern Chinese basin is prone to frequent dust storms.

Situated in the Tarim Basin, the Taklamakan Desert is among the most arid and desolate places on the planet. Encircled by mountain ranges, it suffers from extreme dryness due to the rain shadow effect. Several areas here receive only 10 to 40 millimeters of rainfall annually, which is less than two inches.

Environmental and Climatic Concerns

The period from November to March is exceptionally arid. During this time, passing climatic systems often whip up massive dust clouds that sweep through the basin. An image was captured by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on November 11, 2023. It shows a dust storm propelled eastward by a cold front, with the Tien Shan mountains to the north receiving snowfall, as seen in the clouds at the top-left corner of the image.

Addressing Desertification

In response to the expanding deserts and the increasing dust storms, Chinese officials have initiated a significant afforestation effort. The goal is to create forest barriers along the fringes of the Taklamakan and Gobi Deserts. This initiative, known as the Three-North Shelter Belt or the Great Green Wall, started in 1978. Since its inception, billions of trees have been planted, with an objective to plant about 100 billion trees by 2050.

The image for this article was provided by NASA Earth Observatory and created by Wanmei Liang, utilizing MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Great Green Wall China

What is the Great Green Wall project in China?

The Great Green Wall is a large-scale tree-planting campaign initiated by Chinese authorities to combat desertification and reduce dust storms. It focuses on creating forests along the edges of the Taklamakan and Gobi Deserts, aiming to plant around 100 billion trees by 2050.

Where is the Taklamakan Desert located?

The Taklamakan Desert is located in the Tarim Basin in northwestern China. It is one of the driest and most barren regions on Earth, surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides which contribute to its arid climate.

How does the Taklamakan Desert affect the local climate?

The Taklamakan Desert, being extremely arid, influences the local climate significantly. It experiences minimal rainfall, usually between 10 and 40 millimeters per year, and is prone to frequent dust storms, especially from November to March.

What was the purpose of the image captured by NASA’s MODIS sensor?

The image captured by the MODIS sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite on November 11, 2023, depicted a dust storm in the Taklamakan Desert. It was taken as a cold front passed through the region, illustrating the environmental challenges faced in the area.

How is China addressing the challenges posed by the Taklamakan Desert?

China is addressing the environmental challenges posed by the Taklamakan Desert through the Great Green Wall project. This involves planting billions of trees to create forest barriers, aiming to curb the expansion of the desert and reduce the frequency and intensity of dust storms.

More about Great Green Wall China

  • NASA Earth Observatory
  • MODIS Data from NASA
  • Chinese Environmental Policy
  • Desertification Control
  • Taklamakan Desert Research
  • China’s Forestry Initiatives
  • Climate Change and Desert Expansion
  • Tree Planting Campaigns in China

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Emma Green November 26, 2023 - 6:07 am

the image from NASA’s satellite really puts things into perspective, shows how serious desertification is, especially in places like the Taklamakan Desert.

Mike87 November 26, 2023 - 10:08 am

not sure if planting trees is enough to stop deserts, seems like a drop in the ocean given climate change and all

Sara K. November 26, 2023 - 12:46 pm

interesting read but I think more focus on the local impact and how it affects people living there would be helpful, you know?

John Miller November 26, 2023 - 2:32 pm

wow, this is an eye-opener, China’s efforts in combating desertification is quite impressive, never knew about the Great Green Wall before


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