The national ecological demonstration area in Engebei, Ordos, Inner Mongolia. Photo: Liancai Fang, from Lyu et al. under CC BY license.

As a country plagued by extensive sandy desertification and frequent sandstorms and dust storms, China has been trying to find ways to achieve the sustainable management of its desertified lands.

In the past six decades, government policies, forestry and desertification control programmes, combined with eco-industrialization development, have been among measures integrated to control desertification in northern China. Interventions including afforestation, the rehabilitation of mobile sandy lands, and water conservation have facilitated the return of arid and semi-arid ecosystems to a more balanced state.

China’s practices in desertification control could provide valuable knowledge for sustainable management of desertified lands around the world.

This article reviews the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic activities on desertified areas in China, and the actions tried, outcomes achieved and lessons learned in desertification control.