Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
Research article
15 Jan 2016
Research article |  | 15 Jan 2016

The challenge and future of rocky desertification control in karst areas in southwest China

J. Y. Zhang, M. H. Dai, L. C. Wang, C. F. Zeng, and W. C. Su

Abstract. Karst rocky desertification occurs after vegetation deteriorates as a result of intensive land use, which leads to severe water loss and soil erosion and exposes basement rocks, creating a rocky landscape. Karst rocky desertification is found in humid areas in southwest China, the region most seriously affected by rocky desertification in the world. In order to promote ecological restoration and help peasants out of poverty, the Chinese government carried out the first phase of a rocky desertification control project from 2006 to 2015, which initially contained the expansion of rocky desertification. Currently, the Chinese government is prepared to implement the second phase of the rocky desertification control project, and therefore it is essential to summarise the lessons learned over the last 10 years of the first phase. In this paper, we analyse the driving social and economic factors behind rocky desertification, summarise the scientific research on rocky desertification in the region, and finally identify the main problems facing rocky desertification control. In addition, we put forward several policy suggestions that take into account the perspective of local peasants, scientific research, and China's economic development and urbanisation process. These suggestions include promoting the non-agriculturalization of household livelihoods, improving ecological compensation, strengthening the evaluation of rocky desertification control and dynamic monitoring, and strengthening research on key ecological function recovery technologies and supporting technologies.