Forest that stopped desert

The Saihanba Forest Farm was established in 1962, in order to block the southward movement of Hunshandak Sandland. After over 40-year effort, this green ecological barrier, in a significant way, helped to conserve water source for Beijing and Tianjin. Without forests this situation would not be possible.

The Saihanba Mechanized Forest Farm

Growing conditions

The Saihanba Mechanized Forest Farm (SMFF) is located in the southern margin of the Inner Mongolia plateau HunShaDake sand. At the altitude of 1010-1940 m, the area is under the typical cold and semi- arid semi – humid warm continental monsoon climate, with long-cold winter and short cool summer.

Annual average temperature is -1.2 °C, while the extreme maximum temperature can be up to 33.4  °C. Interestingly, mean frost-free period is less than 60 days, and mean annual amount of precipitation is only 452 milliliters.

Saihanba Forest Farm

The total managed area for the forest farm amounts to around 93 thousands hectares (230.5 thousand acres). Forestland covers around 75 thousands ha (184.5 thousand acres). Artificial forest cover 59 thousands ha (145 K acres) and secondary forest 16 thousands ha (40 K acres). The forest cover at the farm is equal to 80%, and the forest accumulates over 10 million cubic meters of wood. The average annual growth is equal to 538 000 cubic meters. The total value of the timber assets provided by the Saihanba Forest Farm is about 4.2 billion Yuan (roughly 620 million dollars).

Read more how China becomes Ecological Civilization

Multi-functional state forest farm

The SMFF is a large state-owned forest farm, national reserve and national forest park, affiliated to the Forestry Department of Hebei Province. The Forestry Department consists of 24 departments, 6 forest farms and 14 units. At present, it employs 1193 staff members on payroll.

Entrance to the Saihanba Forest Farm. Photo: Rafal Chudy

The entrance to the Saihanba Forest Farm costs 20 US Dollars.  There are over 600 000 tourists per year, who visit the Saihanba national reserve and national forest park.

Forests as green ecological barrier

After over 40 years, the Saihanba Mechanized Forest Farm effectively blocked the southward movement of Hunshandak Sandland, and become a green ecological barrier which stops sand source moving to the capital city, conserving in the meantime water source for Beijing and Tianjin. In addition, forests in perfect way increase renewable resources for the country and enlarge financial sources for local regions, producing in the same time ecological, economical and social benefits. The SMFF has been given the honor titles such as “Ideological education base of the central state organs” and “Model base for entrepreneurial education” by Hebei provincial government and central government.

This picture has been taken in the Saihanba Forest Farm, on the boarder between Hebei and Inner Mongolia provinces. In the background we can notice deserts of Inner Mongolia. Photo: Rafal Chudy
The boarder between Hebei and Inner Mongolia provinces. In the background, we can notice deserts of Inner Mongolia. Photo: Rafal Chudy

Forest management

The most common tree species in the SMFF are larch, spruce, pine and birch. First three species, foresters plant in three different regimes, i.e. 4500, 3000 and 2500 seedlings/ha. Birch regenerates itself by the natural way. The costs of seedlings are around 0.2 – 1.0 Yuan, and depend on the species and the age of the seedling (1 Yuan for 2 years old larch, 0.2 Yuan for one year old pine seedling). Planting costs are around 7500 Yuan per hectare.

The harvested wood contractors usually transport around 400 kilometers to the sawmills around Beijing. However, sometimes the transport over 1000 km takes place as well. The rotation age for pine and spruce is 60 years, for larch 40 years. One cubic meter of wood from SMFF can cost between $120 (pine) up to $180 (larch).

Concerning the salaries, experienced forest worker earns 400 Yuan per day, temporarily worker around 125 Yuan per day.

 What are the main challenges?

According to local foresters, the Saihanba Forest Farm faces two main challenges. The first one – forest fires. In this respect, the Saihanba Forest Farm got even a national award of “National advanced enterprise for forest fire prevention”. The second challenge is the monocultural character of the forests in this region, and problems related to the insects, wind storms, and in consequence fires. Both challenges has been discussed, and recently foresters from Saihanba region are starting to consider the implementation of the continuous cover forestry model.

In the photo below, we can observe a two-layer forest. First layer consist of larch, planted in a density of about 4500 seedlings per hectare. After around 15-20 years, foresters planted the second layer (understory) with Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) – 2000 seedlings/ha. Birch regenerated itself naturally. It is worth to notice yellow flags on the fence, which indicate forest areas susceptible to fires.

Larch, pine and birch forest at SMFF in China. Photo: Rafal Chudy, camera: Jinggang Guo.

And the last photo shows wood transport in Saihanba Forest Forest Farm 🙂

Saihanba Forest Farm wood tranport
Wood transport in Saihanba Forest Farm. Photo: Rafal Chudy, camera: Jinggang Guo.

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