Full Text: Ecological Progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a white paper titled Ecological Progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau on Wednesday.

China SCIOUpdated: July 18, 2018

V. Sci-tech Support System Is in Place

Since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, scientific research on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has developed from partial, single-subject, domestic research to integrated, comprehensive research involving international cooperation. A team of high-caliber researchers has been established, together with an ecological and environmental monitoring system. Sci-tech is playing an ever more important supporting role in socio-economic development and ecological progress on the Plateau.

Top-notch researchers and sci-tech achievements

Chinese sci-tech workers started short-term, small-scale scientific studies on part of the Plateau in the 1950s. Large-scale and comprehensive investigation work was carried out from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, generating first-hand materials totaling several million Chinese characters. Based on the materials, quite a number of books, including 43 monographs, on the Plateau research were published, making up the first Qinghai-Tibet Plateau encyclopedia. The team under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) was commended by the State Council at the commended 1978 National Conference on Science. Comprehensive Research on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau's Rise and on Its Effects on Environment and Human Activities won the first prize of the 1987 National Award for Natural Science. Since the 1990s, to meet the needs of socio-economic development and environmental improvement on the Plateau, the Chinese government has launched research programs on the rational development of regional resources, ecological restoration and environmental governance, and planning for socio-economic development, and carried out systematic research in related subjects on the formation, evolution, and influence of the Plateau, and some other scientific issues. The second round of comprehensive investigation and research on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau will continue providing comprehensive sci-tech support for local ecological progress, with focus on water, ecology, and human activities, and with the goal of solving such problems as environmental carrying capacity, disaster risks, and approaches to green development.

Over the past 60 years or more, the sci-tech workers, with those from the CAS as mainstay, have made pioneering achievements in basic and applied research on the Plateau. For example, Academician Liu Dongsheng established the tectonics-climate theory based on his research on the Plateau's rise and East Asian monsoon climate change; Academician Ye Duzheng proposed that the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is a thermal source in summer, and thus pioneered research on topography and thermodynamic activities and established the basics of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau meteorology theory. These innovative achievements have driven related subjects forward, and played a supporting role in the region's socio-economic development, infrastructure construction and environmental improvement.

China now boasts a sci-tech team engaged in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau research, with accumulated experience and expertise and supported by relevant subjects. The team has senior, middle-aged and young researchers, including more than 40 academicians of the CAS and the Chinese Academy of Engineering, more than 100 awardees of the Plan for Introducing Overseas High-level Talents (also called the Thousand Talents Plan) and the Special National Plan for High-level Talents (also called the 10,000 Talents Plan), and winners of the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, and some other leading talent. Among them, Liu Dongsheng won the 2003 Highest Science and Technology Award of China, Ye Duzheng, the 2005 award, and Wu Zhengyi, the 2007 award; Sun Honglie won the Ettore Majorana-Erice Science for Peace Prize 2009; and Yao Tandong won the 2017 Vega Medal of Svenska S?llskapet f?r Antropologi och Geografi. These scientists are renowned around the world for their research achievements on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

An improved eco-environmental monitoring system

To monitor eco-environmental changes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China has set up a relatively complete monitoring and early-warning system that integrates air and land networks, including a Chinese ecosystem research network, a network for monitoring and studying

earth surface processes and environment in extremely cold areas of high altitude, and observation networks in environmental protection, land, agriculture, forestry, water conservancy, meteorology and some other fields. Under the Chinese ecosystem research network, observation stations for eight different ecosystems, including forest, grassland, farmland and desert, have been set up on the Plateau and surrounding areas, offering long-term located monitoring of changes of the Plateau ecosystem and thus revealing laws for and causes of changes in the ecosystem and environmental factors. With the network for monitoring and studying earth surface processes and environment in extremely cold areas of high altitude, researchers have performed continuous monitoring of environmental change on the Plateau surface. During the 12th Five-year Plan period, meteorological departments set up nine new-generation weather radars, 18 aerological observation stations, 123 state-level ground meteorological observation stations, and 1,361 regional meteorological observation stations, and launched three Fengyun meteorological satellites, thereby improving the network of meteorological observation and test stations. Tibet Autonomous Region has set up 22 state-level surface water inspection sections and 18 state-controlled air quality monitoring stations; the corresponding figures for Qinghai Province are 19 and 11. In some key areas, for example Sanjiangyuan, relevant departments have established a satellite-aircraft-earth integrated, stereoscopic monitoring and evaluation system, and a high-quality database spanning the longest time period and containing the most data items in this area. With improved ecological and environmental monitoring networks and enhanced data quality, environmental governance has improved greatly in terms of capability and efficiency.

Sci-tech-supported green development

Sci-tech is playing a more obvious supporting role in socio-economic development and ecological progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is a landmark project, demonstrating the guidance given by sci-tech innovation to green development. The Golmud-Lhasa section extends 1,142 km, and construction workers were confronted with three extreme engineering problems: melting permafrost, hypoxia at high altitude, and a vulnerable ecology. As the section runs through permafrost regions for almost 546.4 km, sci-tech personnel designed and adopted such measures as replacing surface routes with viaducts, rubble ventilated embankments, ventiduct roadbeds, gravel and rubble revetments, heat conducting poles, insulation boards, and integrated waterproof and drainage systems. These were based on a great volume of observation data and previous technological achievements, ensuring the successful completion of this section. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway also runs through some national nature reserves, including Hoh Xil, Sanjiangyuan and Siling Co. To protect the living environment of Tibetan antelopes and other wild animals, 33 special passageways were added along the railway; to protect the ecological environment, a series of measures were taken, including sand hazard control, grass planting, and turf transplanting. Since the railway was brought into operation, the permafrost has been stable, and the ecology along the line is recovering, with some areas approaching or even surpassing the level of their surroundings. The achievements of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway have earned international acclaim. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in its fourth and fifth assessment reports, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway offers a successful example for other countries and regions in building "green" railways adapted to climate change. Science magazine in the United States published an article on April 27, 2007, pointing out that the railway will "ultimately promote the sustainable ecological, social, and economic development of western China", describing it as not only an engineering accomplishment, but also "an ecological miracle". The Qinghai-Tibet Railway Project won the special award of the 2008 National Award for Scientific and Technological Progress.

Sci-tech has played a strong supporting role in controlling the ecosystem degradation of the Sanjiangyuan region. A technical system for restoring degraded alpine meadows (Heitutan, or black soil land) has achieved big breakthroughs in relevant researches, and the achievements won a Class-II prize in the National Award for Scientific and Technological Progress. A technique for cultivating breeder seeds of forage grass has provided high-quality seeds for controlling typical degraded pastures and artificial grass planting.

Traditional Tibetan medicine is a precious health treasure for people living on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and a major resource strength for the Plateau to develop a local specialty economy. To develop Tibetan medicine in a standard, modern and industrialized way, sci-tech departments have promoted research on and demonstration of key techniques, such as artificial planting and wild tending of Tibetan medicinal materials. They have carried out basic and applied research on Tibetan medicine, and kept improving the standards and the inspection and monitoring system of Tibetan medicine. They have fostered a group of innovative enterprises in prevention and treatment of diseases, research and development of drugs, and health preservation, and created a series of branded Tibetan medicine products.

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