Rows of Scots pine trees stood out on a mountain that has not turned green in March in Chongli district of Zhangjiakou city, north China’s Hebei Province.
Zhangjiakou is an important ecological barrier in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. Due to the high altitudes, pasturing and human activities, there was not a stable forest ecological system in the past, resulting in water and soil losses and a lack of favorable habitats for animals and plants.
In September 2016, the first batch of trees was planted there under a carbon sink project initiated by the Lao Niu Foundation and China Green Carbon Foundation (CGCF).
The public welfare project, which is aimed at coping with climate change and advocating low-carbon development, was planned and prepared by CGCF and funded by Lao Niu Foundation in the first phase. The project is expected to create a greener environment for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games after its completion.
The core zone of the project is 135 kilometers from Beijing’s downtown area, and runs along the roads connecting Chongli district, the venue for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games events, Chicheng county, and Huailai county, in Zhangjiakou.
About 2.3 million trees have been planted for the project, mostly are Chinese pine trees and Scots pine trees. Through planting shrubs and grass, the project will help reclaim more than 30,000 mu (about 2,000 hectares) of barren mountains. The trees are expected to absorb about 380,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the 30-year period of the project.
“One Scots pine tree can absorb 165 kilograms of carbon dioxide in 30 years,” said Yang Jianzhong, director of the afforestation station of the bureau of forestry and grassland of Chongli district, adding that the trees could not only help with the recovery of local vegetation and landscapes, absorb carbon dioxide, but also reduce losses of water and soil, contain land degradation, and protect important water sources of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
The trees could help increase carbon sinks, said Yang. The forest landscape featuring various layers of trees around the Olympic Forest Park and along Olympic tracks will help improve the ecological environment of the surrounding area of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The trees will also form a corridor for the exchange between species, and promote biodiversity conservation, said Yang, adding that the project and the management of the woods will provide job opportunities for local people and raise farmers’ incomes.
Building the forests is not an easy task, as it takes time before an appropriate piece of land for forestation is finally selected, and the planting needs to be carried out in strict accordance with scientific methods.
Besides, the dry weather and lack of rainfall in Zhangjiakou also posed great difficulty for forestation.
In order to maintain biodiversity and facilitate vegetation recovery, the planting density was set at 3m×3m=9㎡, a low level that would contribute to the restoration and protection of the local subalpine ecosystem.
The density of 9㎡ not only grants enough space for the growth of the Scots pine saplings, but also offers a common habitat for shrubs, subalpine meadow, birds, and insects. The design is able to avoid high density of a single tree species in the area which leads to low biodiversity.
The project lays more emphasis on taking care of the trees, Yang introduced, explaining that tree planters would spend five years cultivating the saplings, and a longer time managing the trees and patrolling in the forests, to guarantee that every tree could grow sturdily.
Thanks to these efforts, the indigenous vegetation landscape and the biodiversity of Zhangjiakou are gradually restored, Yang disclosed.
The photo shows the beautiful scenery of snow-capped mountain in the Chongli competition area of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, September 29, 2018(Photo by Du Baihua / official website of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games)