China’s different shades of greening


Your view that China’s re-vegetation of its deserts could exacerbate water shortages risks oversimplifying an incredibly complex eco-restoration problem (Nature 573, 474–475; 2019). Far from just planting trees in arid areas, China’s re-vegetation codes vary for different regions and greening programmes. The nationwide Grain-to-Green programme, for example, aims to restore unstable and low-productivity farmlands to forest or natural vegetation. In humid areas, research optimizes greening programmes for plant selection and socio- economic benefits. And China’s re-vegetation projects are confined to a range that local water resources can sustain.

Re-vegetation, like any eco-restoration strategy, is not a catch-all solution to carbon sequestration, soil erosion and flooding. But, rather than worrying mainly about water consumption, Chinese and other scientists are investigating the nexus of vegetation, soil, water, ecosystems and human society.

Nature 577, 29 (2019)