All chapters:



Waters and water management

Ecosystems and ecoregions

Species diversity and use of biological resources

Nature conservation: econet and protected areas

Countries & cultures


Land use

International policy

Land use
Land Degradation and Desertification
Related maps, pictures, links
Human activities in China have caused not only conversion of wetlands and deforestation of plains but have also led to extreme environmental deterioration, including human-induced drought, desertification, wind erosion, and alkalinization of soil, all of which affect an increasingly larger land mass in the region.

In the 1986-1996 decade about 1.74 million ha were converted to farmland, but only 884,000 ha remained cultivated, accounting for 51 percent of the total. Three great waves of cultivation since the 1950s have destroyed large stretches of natural vegetation that later deteriorated into bare, sandy and eroded land. With neither conditions for cultivation nor protective measures, many areas turned into desert.

Despite low population densities, land degradation is an especially severe problem in Mongolia. The total area of degraded land is 121.7 million hectares, of which 97 million ha suffer wind and water erosion, one million ha are lost to any agricultural activity, 8.6 million ha are degraded by overgrazing and 7.9 million ha are covered by human-induced moving sands.

While land erosion is widespread in the agricultural areas of Russia, agriculture-driven land degradation is not recognized as a threat as it is in China and Mongolia . However, in many steppe areas of Chitinskaya Province and ABAO plant density declined from 80-90 percent to 30 percent, while productivity of pastures declined to 100-200 kg/ha and only 25 percent of original pasture is preserved in good condition. Factors causing degradation are essentially the same, with drought cycles, overgrazing and grass-fires being key. Overgrazing has been less severe than in China and in many places in Mongolia due to lower livestock numbers. This gives little reason for optimism, since similar ecosystems might be degraded in a similar way very quickly, and growing economic cooperation in the region, if not balanced by sound environmental policies, might quickly bring about this change.

Once -productive wetland, now - alkaline badlands. Modamoji. Inner Mongolia. (Photo by E.Simonov)


Map collections: Forestry

Oil & gas




Also look:

Land-use trends:

General trends in land-use

Recent changes in land-use in three countries



Amur Agriculture

Agricultural development in Northeast China

Agricultural development in Eastern Mongolia

Russian agriculture

Russian agricultural land and production in RFE-tables

Northeast Asia cooperation in agriculture

Environmental impacts of argiculture

Conversion of wildlands to farmland



Timber harvest in the Russian Far East

Salmon vs forestry

Major human-induced impacts on forest ecosystems of RFE (table)

Timber trade


Other land-use issues:


Nature tourism in the Amur/Heilong River Basin

Transport infrastructure impacts

Oil & gas Basin

Oil & gas impacts

Russian mining

Mongolian mining

Full contents
Full digest
Full atlas
All pictures