Saudi Arabia aims for 50% renewable energy by 2030, backs huge tree planting initiative

The target will require huge investments in solar technologies, experts warn, as less than 1% of the oil producing nation’s energy comes from renewables.

By Joe Lo

Saudi Arabia will generate 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and plant 10 billion trees in coming decades, its crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced.

In comments reported by the government-affiliated Saudi Press Agency, Bin Salman said the climate crisis had increased desertification, dust storms and air pollution in the Kingdom, damaging the Saudi economy and its citizens’ health.

In response, the Saudi Green Initiative aims to transform one of the world’s top oil producers into “a global leader in forging a greener world”. This is part of efforts to diversify the economy away from its oil dependence.

The Saudi Press Agency said the crown prince recognised the Kingdom’s share of responsibility in advancing the fight against the climate crisis.

“We reject the false choice between preserving the economy and protecting the environment. Climate action will enhance competitiveness, spark innovation, and create millions of high-quality jobs,” he said.

The statement was welcomed by Saudi Arabia’s Gulf allies, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan, UN Climate Change chief Patricia Espinosa and the International Renewable Energy Agency.

But the government did not say whether it would produce and export any less oil while powering its own economy with cheap solar power.

Tanzeed Alam, a climate change consultant based in the United Arab Emirates, described Saudi Arabia’s renewable ambition as “huge”.

“Coming from the world’s largest oil producer, it’s a pretty bold statement,” he told Climate Home News.

Renewables made up just 0.02% of Saudi Arabia’s final energy consumption in 2017, according to the IEA. Neighbouring United Arab Emirates aims to reach the 50% target by 2050 while its capital Abu Dhabi wants to reach it by 2030.

Although some mountainous regions have wind power potential, Alam said the majority of this renewable energy would come from solar power generated by huge farms in the desert. The scale of the projects and the power of the sun make solar power in Saudi Arabia cheaper than anywhere else, he said.

In a December 2020 report, the International Energy Agency said: “Solar PV [power], if deployed at large scales and under favourable climatic conditions, can be very cost competitive.”

But Alam added that the Saudi government had “a lot of work to do” to achieve its 50% goal, particularly by investing in energy storage. Currently, only Iceland and Norway get more than 50% of their primary energy from renewables.

He added that investment would come from both the government and the private sector.  The government’s Public Investment Fund puts down the risk finance that supports a competitive tendering process, he said.

As well as renewables, the government said they would pursue “clean hydrocarbon” projects to make fossil fuels less polluting. Chatham House analyst Valérie Marcel said this was likely to include carbon capture and storage, cutting methane leaks and the use of renewable energy to extract fossil fuels.


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Turkey will Use Leonardite for Fighting with Erosion and Desertification

General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration (MTA) and the General Directorate of Turkey Coal Enterprises (TKİ) and General Directorate of Combating Desertification and Erosion (ÇEM) signed a cooperation protocol. According to the agreement institutions will carry out studies on Turkey’s leonardite resources/potential and leonhardite the quality and features. Within the scope of the protocol,…

Africa is creating its own Great Wall – and it’s green

Andrea Willige – Senior Writer, Formative Content –

  • The Great Green Wall initiative aims to restore an 8,000km strip of savanna along the southern edge of the Sahara desert.
  • 100 million hectares of land are to be restored, 10 million jobs created and 250 megatonnes of carbon sequestered.
  • The initiative has just received a funding boost from donors including France and the World Bank to help achieve its goals by 2030.

Green is not the first colour you typically associate with the arid Sahel region in Africa. But a pan-regional initiative could change this significantly by 2030, following a pledge for new funding of more than $14 billion.

Stretching coast-to-coast from Senegal to Djibouti, the Great Green Wall is aiming to regenerate one of the region’s most seriously affected by land degradation and desertification in the world.

It’s hoped the completed Wall would be a new Wonder of the World – overtaking the Great Barrier Reef to be the largest living structure on Earth.

Image of the Great Green Wall in Africa spanning across from Senegal to Djibouti
A Great Green Wall is growing across Africa.Image: Great Green Wall

The semi-arid Sahel, between the dry Sahara to the north and the belt of humid savannas to the south, suffers from recurrent droughts, lack of rainfall and deteriorating soil quality and biodiversity. Disease outbreaks, food, water and energy insecurities impede its development significantly.

Growing a green belt across Africa

These are set against the ramifications of geopolitical conflict in the region and an expected tripling of its population to more than 1.5 billion before the end of the century, the FT reports based on UN estimates.

Addressing these challenges is the goal of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGW), which launched in 2007.

It aims to restore and sustainably manage an 8,000km strip of savanna, including trees, grasslands, vegetation and plants, along the southern edge of the Sahara desert.

Along with restoring 100 million hectares of land and creating 10 million jobs in rural areas, the GGW vision for 2030 also includes sequestering 250 megatonnes of carbon, so the region can play its part in meeting global climate goals.

As Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), told the World Economic Forum during Davos Agenda Week: “Anytime you restore land, you actually have it as a carbon sink. And it turns out that land is the largest carbon sink that we have right now on Earth.”

Making progress with land restoration

Progress so far has been slow, with the UN reporting last year that the initiative had only covered 16% of its target area. But it has already benefited close to 500,000 people, both through training and job creation.

In Ethiopia, 15 million hectares of land have been restored, while in Senegal, 12 million drought-resistant trees have been planted in less than a decade.

A graph to show the socio-economic impacts of Africa's Great Green Wall and restoration activities.
Socio-economic impacts of GGW and restoration activities.Image: UNCCD

In January 2021, the project received a pledge for new funding from donors including the African Development Bank, the government of France and the World Bank.

The Great Green Wall Accelerator announced at the One Planet Summit for biodiversity will cover around 30% of the $33 billion needed for the GGW to meet its 2030 goals.

In 2020, the project received a cultural boost, when Malian musician Inna Modja and Oscar-nominated director Fernando Meirelles made a documentary about its ambition.

Given the expected population growth, putting the region on a more secure, equitable and sustainable footing is an opportunity not to be missed, according to Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.

“There is room for public and private investments, there is room for large investors, there is room for small shareholders,” he told the Davos Agenda.

He added that securing the necessary funding for GGW will create opportunities for people “to stay home, to do business at home, to grow at home, to actually enjoy living with their families”, addressing pressing geopolitical issues including migration.

To support these efforts, and UpLink have recently launched the Trillion Trees Challenge: the Sahel & the Great Green Wall. The Challenge is calling for successful and innovative restoration projects that contribute to the vision of the Great Green Wall Initiative and deliver sustainable development impact in the Sahel.Volume 90% 

Desertification: Kebbi plants 1m trees

The Kebbi State Government has planted one million tree seedlings to combat desertification across the state.

Malam Ibrahim Jegudu, the state Director of Forestry, Ministry of Environment, confirmed this to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Birnin Kebbi on Monday.

Jegudu said: “The programme was successful. I can remember, we produced about one million tree seedlings in the last two years and distributed same to people and on a yearly basis we usually seek the attention of the government to produce assorted tree seedlings.

“Not only tree seedlings that are windbreakers, but we also raise some food trees that can increase food-bearing trees across the state such as mango, guava, pawpaw, which we also give to local farmers to plant in their farms.”

The director recalled that a few years ago, Gov. Atiku Bagudu bought some date palm and oil palm seedlings and distributed them free to farmers to encourage the plantation of trees, especially economic trees.

“What we did then was to identify farmers that have clear agricultural development and distributed such trees to them. After the assessment, we were able to pick up some farms that actually recorded enamous amount of success.

“Even this year, we are making move by the approval of the Executive Governor of Kebbi State to purchase a lot of assorted plants that will also be distributed to local farmers all in an attempt to minimise desertification in the state,” he noted.

On indiscriminate felling of trees, the director stressed the importance of trees to human existence, adding that all religions preach and encourage tree planting for dual benefits here and hereafter.

“It is an obvious fact that trees are very essential to human existence as they take in the carbon dioxide we release while we breathe in the oxygen they release.

“Some people believe that even food cooked from firewood test better than the one cooked from other energy sources. If not for anything, for the sake of tasty food we should continue planting trees.

“You can plant trees in your house, you are not going to cause any effect; you can plant trees in your compound, in Mosques, in Churches, and everywhere.

“Wherever you plant trees, you tend to have its benefits either by getting shade or cutting branches for firewood while some economic trees can fetch you a lot of income,” the director advised.

Interview: Climate-related desertification main factor behind yellow dust storms in Mongolia, says official

Source: Xinhua| 2021-04-01 16:45:07|Editor: huaxia

ULAN BATOR, April 1 (Xinhua) — Climate change-related desertification is the main factor behind the increase in the frequency of yellow dust storms in Mongolia in recent years, a senior official of the Environment and Tourism Ministry has said.

“Mongolia has a harsh continental climate, and is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The frequency of climate-related natural disasters such as yellow dust storms have been on the rise in our country,” Altangerel Enkhbat, head of the climate change department at the ministry, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“If we divide Mongolia’s desertification into human and natural factors, the majority of the desertification is directly related to natural factors or climate change,” said Enkhbat.

The average temperature in Mongolia has risen 2.25 degrees Celsius over the past 80 years, almost tripling the rise of average global temperatures, and 76.8 percent of the Mongolian total territory has been struck by desertification, Enkhbat said. “The situation is likely to get worse unless concrete actions are taken.”

The annual precipitation in Mongolia has decreased by 7 percent to 8 percent over the last 80 years, especially the amount of rainfall or precipitation during the warm season has decreased significantly, he said.

Over the last 40 years, the number of hot days per year in Mongolia has increased by nearly 20 days, and the warmest 10 years in the country over the last 80 years has been recorded in the last less than 15 years, according to the official.

“These figures show the impact of climate change on Mongolia. The frequency of natural disasters caused by climate change has increased significantly in the country in recent years,” he said, adding that a real example of this is yellow dust storms.

Enkhbat stressed that the main way to combat desertification and reduce land degradation and the frequency of dust storms is to increase vegetation cover and afforestation by planting trees.

Mongolia has a total land area of 1,564,116 square km, and only 7.9 percent is now covered by forests.

In recent years, trees have been planted on 3,000-5,000 hectares of land per year with the state budget, he said. “We aim to increase this figure to 8.6 percent in the coming four years.”

“Saxaul forests play the most important role in protecting arid and desert ecosystems. Therefore, increasing the size of saxaul forests or planting saxaul trees in Gobi desert areas in southern Mongolia and other drylands is a real measure to reduce the intensity of desertification and dust storms,” he said.

The Mongolian government has been implementing a national program called “Green Wall” since 2005 in order to increase the vegetation cover and combat the desertification in the arid and Gobi desert regions of southern Mongolia.

“We are interested in cooperating with foreign countries, especially our neighbor countries, to expand this program,” he said.

“Also, our country has been cooperating with relevant Chinese organizations on issues related to dust storms and desertification. For example, since last year, relevant ministries of the two countries have been holding policy consultative meetings to determine certain direction of cooperation,” he added.

Mongolia, one of the last nomadic countries in the world, has four seasons. Strong winds, and dust and snow storms are common in spring.

Ten people, mostly nomadic herders, and hundreds of thousands of farm animals died in Mongolia due to the strong winds and heavy dust storms that hit large parts of Mongolia in mid-March.

Farmer coaxes forest from the desert in Burkina Faso

OUAHIGOUYA, Burkina Faso – Yacouba Sawadogo murmurs advice to his sons as they press a sapling into the red earth using a centuries-old technique that he has adapted to conjure a forest from Burkina Faso’s rain-starved soil.advancing tide of desertification.

The farmer who is well into his 70s is hailed across his province as “the man who stopped the desert”. He won that title after tweaking a method of growing plants in pits to trap water – essential in the hardscrabble region fringing the Sahara.

After a terrible drought ravaged the Sahel in the 1970s and 1980s, many of Sawadogo’s neighbours abandoned their farms in northern Burkina Faso. But he stayed.

Pressures on land remain. Wind erosion, water shortages, rapid population growth and overgrazing cause around 470,000 hectares of land to degrade per year, data from the environment ministry show.

His use of so-called zai pits has in four decades created a 40-hectare oasis of thorny acacia, yellow-fruiting saba and other trees near his village in Yatenga province, bordering Mali.

“This forest that you see today was really a desert – there was not even the shade of a single tree here,” he says, sunlight dappling his face through the canopy above.

Farmers have dug small pits into the sunbaked soil for centuries and filled them with organic matter for their plants. Sawadogo experimented with digging wider and deeper pits and using stones.

When the rains arrive, his pits pit collect more water that feeds down to the seeds, increasing crop yields by up to 500%, according to the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

The adoption of zai and similar soil and water conservation methods across the West African nation over the past 30 years has improved food security, groundwater levels, tree cover and biodiversity, according to a 2018 study in the journal Sustainability.

Sawadogo will keep planting. “If there are no trees and the land is not maintained, it would be a disaster.”

After a dusty spring, China seeks further cooperation on sand control with Mongolia

Shan Jie and Zhang Dan

This spring, many parts of northern China, including the capital Beijing, have been consistently invaded by sand and dust from Mongolia. The two neighboring countries have been sharing projects for controlling the sand in recent decades, but the dreadful sandstorms that have affected China have caused more calls for cooperation to deal with the problem.

A once-in-a-decade, massive sandstorm hit northern China on March 15, turning the air yellow and covering vehicles or anything in the open air with dust. The AQI index in Beijing surpassed 8,000, a record number, and the sandstorm is estimated to have killed at least 10 people in Mongolia.

After that, northern China was hit by several more sandstorms. On Wednesday, Beijing and nearby regions suffered another sandstorm, leading to medium or heavy air pollution, media reports said.

In response to the situation, some Chinese scientists have proposed solutions. Researchers from the Institute of Desertification Studies under the Chinese Academy of Forestry have appealed for more work in monitoring the desertification of the Mongolian Plateau using remote-sensing techniques. They have also provided descriptions of the potential harm based on their research, the Global Times has learned.

“This dust storm shows that there’s much to be done in regional cooperation to improve the environment,” Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said on March 16. “We stand ready to join hands with neighboring countries and the international community to do a better job in improving and protecting the regional and global environment and to contribute to the building of a more beautiful and cleaner world.”

China and Mongolia share a border of more than 4,000 kilometers and Beijing is only 1,166 kilometers away from Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, which is also home to half of Mongolia’s population. The ecological systems of the two countries are closely connected.

China and Mongolia have always cooperated in managing sand and dust, but China could also aid Mongolia with experience and technology. Every year, funding from national departments and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is applied for this work, the Global Times learned from the Chinese Academy of Forestry.

Cao Xiaoming, a research fellow at the Institute of Desertification Studies under the Chinese Academy of Forestry, monitored the drought conditions in the Mongolian Plateau from 2011 to 2018 with remote-sensing techniques, together with scientists in Mongolia.

They found how climate change and human activities have led to dryer earth and desertification in the region, which covers both Mongolia and China’s Inner Mongolia.

According to Cao, the research is funded by the Chinese side. The results of the research are shared with Mongolian institutes.

From engagement with Mongolian scientists related to desertification, Cao found that they are also very concerned about the situation in Mongolia and that they cooperate and communicate with their Chinese colleagues.

As early as in 2002, China, Japan and South Korea, together with Mongolia launched joint research in the desert in southeastern Mongolia. In 2015, China, Russia and Mongolia signed an outline for building an economic corridor, in which enhancing ecological and environmental protection was underlined.

In 2011 and 2013, the former State Forestry Administration hosted training for sand control technologies and desertification prevention. For instance, in the 2013 training, 10 Mongolian experts and senior officials related to desertification prevention work visited China and had field trips in regions such as North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The Mongolian participants learned about China’s successful cases in tackling desertification, from building haloxylon ammodendron forests, restoring vegetation and developing a carbon market, according to a statement sent from the Chinese Academy of Forestry.

However, sometimes the knowledge cannot be transferred into practical actions in Mongolia, said an employee at the forestry administration of Inner Mongolia, which participated in organizing the training.

Moreover, the current international cooperation is just a drop in the bucket in terms of changing the situation. Data shows that 76.8 percent of the earth in Mongolia suffered desertification in 2018, local media reports said. 

“Smog and sandstorms usually hang over the sky of Ulan Bator in winter from September to March, which is annoying,” Yang Yupei, a construction project manager from a Chinese engineering company told the Global Times. “I think the Mongolian government should attach more importance to environmental protection,” Yang said.

Vast sandstorms expose Mongolia’s long-ignored ecological crisis

Desertification threatens largely agricultural country of 3.4m people –

People across northern China battled dust-laden winds and orange-tinted skies earlier this month as the biggest sandstorm in nearly a decade engulfed a huge swath of the region.

Such extreme weather has become rare since the government invested in projects to block wind and keep sand on the ground earlier in the early 2000s.

Official weather data shows the sandstorm originated March 13 in China’s northern neighbor, Mongolia, where it caused at least 10 deaths, left hundreds of people missing, and killed more than 1,200 livestock, a major source of income in a largely agricultural nation.

Yet the international media were slow to draw attention to Mongolia’s plight. As other Northeast Asian countries strengthen controls on air pollution and extreme weather events, the rapidly desertifying country of 3.4 million people has fallen by the wayside.

Drying out

Landlocked between its two giant neighbors, China and Russia, more than three-quarters of Mongolia is currently vulnerable to desertification. Forests cover around 10% of the country, while more than 80% is alpine or desert steppe, or arid grassland, according to United Nations Environment Program reports.

Sandstorms typically form in spring, when strong winds blow over dry, barren land, loosening sand and dirt. Although they are natural phenomena, the recent storm reflects a sinister trend.

Global climate change appears to be driving the increasing frequency of sandstorms in Mongolia. Since 1940, the country’s average annual temperature has risen by at least 1.8 C, a trend that is expected to continue in the coming decades.

Higher temperatures mean that already dry regions will see more evaporation and that dry weather is likely to last longer. A report from the North-East Asian Subregional Program for Environmental Cooperation (NEASPEC), an intergovernmental group, says drought and wind erosion are the main factors in Mongolia’s desertification.

“Reduced rainfall is an intractable issue for any region, and there is little that humans can do to remedy the problem,” said Ma Junhe, an environmental campaigner who has worked in desertification control in Northwest China for more than a decade.

But human activity is making Mongolia’s environmental problems even worse.

Overgrazed, overmined


Toward a more comprehensive understanding of aridity changes over global drylands

by Peking University

Figure 1: Future aridity changes of atmospheric, ecohydrological, and socio- economic systems over drylands. Credit: Peking University

Global drylands are experiencing faster-than-average warming and are also among the most vulnerable regions to climate change. Meteorological metrics all point to an emerging trend of increased surface aridity, raising concerns of land desertification and degradation. However, recent satellite observations also show lusher drylands, in apparent contradiction to the image of drylands becoming drier. In a new review article published in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, an international team comprehensively examined global dryland aridity changes with evidence from the literature and various sources of Earth observations and numerical modeling. A key message of this synthesis is that, by considering the physiological effect of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), the apparent paradox between enhanced surface aridity and lusher dryland vegetation can actually be resolved.

Led by researchers from Peking University, the team includes scientists with diverse expertise on global dryland research from China, U.K., France, Australia, U.S. and Austria. By employing a broad range of aridity metrics, the team provided a more complete picture of current and future aridity changes over global drylands. They found that atmospheric-based metrics generally show a strong trend of rising dryness; while soil moisture and runoff also imply increasing dryland aridity, yet at slower paces. By contrast, ecosystem-based metrics show a trend of greening and reduced plant water stress, despite the rising atmospheric dryness. The co-occurrence of atmospheric drying and ecosystem greening over drylands is also confirmed by model simulations of vegetation dynamics.

Lian Xu from Peking University, the lead author of this study, explains: “Literally, aridity means insufficient water supply to meet the demand. However, for different parts of the land surface, their supply and demand sides are different; and they can move in divergent directions under environmental change. Therefore, when different dryness metrics are brought together in a unified framework, they can have very different trends.” He further added: “No single metric fully captures the complex nature of the land surface aridity.”

Higher temperatures increase atmospheric demand for water, and are expected to aggravate plant water stress. However, dryland plants are found to experience reduced levels of water stress thanks to the simultaneously increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2. This is because the pores of plant leaves (stomata), which allow for water loss through a process called transpiration, partially close under higher CO2 concentrations, conserves water under increasing aridity. For water-stressed ecosystems, the saved water allows plants to capture extra CO2 and thus trigger more vigorous growth (greening). The reduced plant transpiration also impacts other land surface processes, leaving more water stored in soils and running off through rivers, but at the same time also making the near-surface air warmer and drier.

“It is always tempting to define the water stress plants will feel under climate change by the new weather regimes they might experience. Our research shows that ignoring vegetation physiological response gives an incomplete picture, as the capability to adjust to drier conditions is stronger than expected,” said Chris Huntingford from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

The authors note that future changes to drylands may be highly nonlinear, and subject to additional drivers such as flash droughts, fire disturbances and intensification of human activities, which are not yet fully understood. “Understanding possible nonlinear behaviors and tipping points of dryland ecosystem changes, and improving their representation in Earth system models, is a high priority for future research,” Lian added.

In the future, the rapidly growing populations and socio-economic development in drylands may increase human water demand dramatically, which will become the key driving force of dryland aridity changes, competing with ecosystems for water and posing a growing threat to ecosystem health. “Dryland water-resource management and climate-change mitigation policies should consider how to manage water in more efficient and sustainable ways, to safeguard food security while simultaneously maintain healthy ecosystems,” said Fu Bojie of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who leads the Global Dryland Ecosystem Programme (Global-DEP) aiming to facilitate dryland social-ecological sustainability.

China’s land greening in 2020

2021-03-12 – XinhuaEditor : Li Yan –

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration Friday released a bulletin showcasing advances in the forestry sector in 2020 to mark China’s Tree-Planting Day. The following are some figures about China’s land greening in 2020:

Afforestation: 6.77 million hectares of forests were created in China last year. Natural forests: As of 2020, China basically achieved its goal of bringing all of the natural forests under protection. Anti-desertification: 2.096 million hectares of land was saved from desertification last year. Grasslands: 2.83 million hectares of grasslands were improved through grass planting last year. Wetlands: China registered 29 new major wetlands last year. National park system: The country is setting up a national park system to protect ecosystems and endangered animals. Accordingly, it has piloted 10 national parks, including one for giant pandas. Fewer forest fires: There were 1,153 forest fires last year, down 50.8 percent from 2019, and 13 grassland fires, down 71.1 percent. 

4,500 ha of Golestan forests undergo reforestation

TEHRAN – A reforestation project has been implemented on 4,500 hectares of the northeastern province of Golestan, which was exposed to desertification due to drought and excessive grazing, head of Golestan natural resources and watershed management organization has said.

“During the last three years, we have implemented reforestation plans on 16,500 hectares of lands at risk of desertification in Golestan province with the participation of related organizations,” IRNA quoted Abdol-Rahim Lotfi as saying on Sunday.

According to Lotfi, 300,000 hectares of natural resources are exposed to desertification and become a sedimentary plain, 116,000 hectares of which, with high intensity of dust generation, are a priority in the implementation of these plans.

During the last 30 years, climate change such as increasing temperature, decreasing rainfall, increasing evaporation, and rainfall fluctuations in Golestan province have intensified the negative consequences and resulted in poor pastures and sand and dust storms, he explained.

This border province has a climatic diversity from temperate to semi-arid and has a variety of natural resources including high mountains, flat plains, lowlands, saline areas, and the sea.

The lands under the natural resources and watershed management organization’s control are 1.3 million hectares, which include 452,000 hectares of forests, 862,000 hectares of pastures, 20,000 hectares of coastal lands.

Golestan, the oldest national park in Iran, is located in this province, which is a unique refuge for wildlife.

Stretched to 87,402 hectares, it is home to one-seventh of Iran’s plant species, one-third of all birds, and half of the country’s mammals, hosting 1,350 plant species and 302 wildlife species. It has been listed as one of the top fifty ecosystems on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1930.

So far, 150 species of birds have been identified in Golestan National Park. Golden Eagle, eastern imperial eagle, saker falcon, falcon, and bearded vulture are among the endangered birds of the park. Other birds of Golestan National Park include common pheasants, shrikes, griffon vulture, rosy starling, typical warblers, wheatears, finches, and common blackbirds.

The park holds a share of 3 species of amphibians and 24 species of reptiles.


Beijing warns residents to avoid outdoor activity as a massive sandstorm covers the capital in yellow dust

BY EAMON BARRETT – March 15, 2021 –

People in Beijing awoke to yellow skies Monday as the Chinese capital was engulfed by a sandstorm blowing in from the Gobi Desert, some 600 miles away.

The China Meteorological Administration called Monday’s sandstorm the worst in a decade. Flights were grounded in China’s Inner Mongolia province while Mongolia, which shares the Gobi Desert with China, has reported six dead and over 400 people missing.

The Beijing meteorological agency warned residents on Monday to avoid outdoor activity as it raised the city to a yellow alert, with Beijing’s air quality index recording dire conditions.

The density of airborne dust particles known as PM10 hit over 8,000 micrograms per cubic meter—160 times what the World Health Organization considers an acceptable level. But life in the capital continued much as normal, with residents continuing to work.

Sandstorms are common in Beijing, coming every year in spring as winds blow from the desert to the sea. Industrialization, urbanization, and intensive agriculture since the 1950s have caused extensive deforestation in arid North China and increased the frequency of sandstorms.

In 1978, Beijing embarked on a vast reforestation initiative to reinstall this natural line of defense and combat creeping desertification. Dubbed the Great Green Wall, China has planted over 66 billion trees as part of the initiative—although a lack of aftercare or strategic planning means many trees die before reaching maturity.