International Workshop on Environmental Change and Sustainable Development in Arid and Semi-arid Regions Inner Mongolia, China

Preconference field trip: 7 - 9 September, 2007

Conference: 10 - 17 September, 2007

Pre-Conference Field Trip Report

Submitted by Arthur and Jeanette Conacher, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

The scenery of Inner Mongolia north and west of Beijing is mind-blowing : wide-open grasslands, massive mountains and dunelands, traditional mud villages, many abandoned as farmers are being encouraged to move to the cities; terrific history (the Khans, Silk Road -- incredible tombs/ruins -- visited the ruins of the summer palace where Marco Polo reputedly met Kubla Khan (grandson of Genghis), neolithic pottery shards lying on desert surfaces, colourful people, huge highways crossing vast spaces, a vast wind farm, coal-fired power stations, comfortable, air-conditioned coaches, fibre optic cable, mobile phone working much better than at home only 30 minutes from Perth's CBD, grandiose public space architecture and rebuilding and so on. Land degradation problems of course abound, especially in the grasslands and arid/sub-arid landscapes which often are overly pressured by grazing, exacerbated by periods of drought and/or climate change, resulting in the wind-generated remobilisation of previously stable dunes; but also gullies, wadhis and mass movement are evident in wetter areas, with freeze-thaw undoubtedly paying an important role; and extensive quarrying, especially of limestone and clays to feed cement and brick factories.

posted: 2-10-'08, pfh