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Grasslands Mostly Hurt by Humans

Poor management, not climate change, is the chief cause of grassland degradation, a senior Chinese scientist told an international rangeland forum on Wednesday.

"Both natural and human factors led to grassland desertification, but improper management contributed most to the situation," Ren Jizhou, a Chinese Academy of Engineering academician, said at the ongoing 2008 International Grassland and Rangeland Congress here in the capital of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

He cited overgrazing and economic exploitation as causes of the severe degradation of grassland in China.

China has about 400 million hectares of grassland, most of which has been damaged.

"A digital management system is urgently needed for China, which can monitor changes in the grasslands, serving as a study platform for researchers and providing management guidance for herdsmen," said Ren.

The scholar also suggested improved compensation in ecological and environmental protection projects. For example, the government should offer to buy surplus livestock to reduce the burden on grasslands.

Experts at the event acknowledged China's efforts to curb the degradation of grasslands and called for more investment and efforts to protect these lands.

Since 2000, one-fifth of the grasslands have been subject to grazing bans or rehabilitation periods. Also in 2000, the government launched a number of projects involving the restoration of grassland vegetation and the establishment of forage seed bases and grassland fencing.

(Xinhua News Agency July 3, 2008)

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