Satellite Images Tell How China Goes Green


China is intensifying its efforts nationwide to make the country greener with a variety of afforestation activities involving both public and private sectors. The country's forest coverage rate rose to 24.02 percent in 2022, according to a report from the National Greening Commission on Feb. 12, 2023. 
Scientists from the China Remote Sensing Satellite Ground Station (RSGS), a big science facility hosted by the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) spotted several places in China where were once arid areas, and made comparison with the using of satellite images captured in different years to see how the areas are going green, thanks to the afforestation efforts. 
Huzhu Tu Autonomous County, Qinghai Province
This area is located in the northern mountainous area of Caojiabao Airport in Xi'ning, where a large number of Caragana korshinskii were planted in 2019 by the Ant Forest Project, a mobile game that has become China’s largest private sector tree-planting scheme. Caragana korshinskii is a kind of tree species with salt-, drought-, and high temperature- tolerance, which is often used for desert greening and sand fixation. In the remote sensing image of 2017, there are large areas of bare mountains, while in the image of 2022, the mountains are almost completely covered by vegetation. 
GF-2 image acquired on July 21, 2017. Bands: R(3)G(4)B(2) (Image by AIR)
GF-2 image acquired on September 11, 2022. Bands: R(3)G(4)B(2) (Image by AIR)
Alxa Left Banner, Inner Mongolia
The images reveal the process of desert greening. The methods of desert greening include afforestation, grass planting, artificial humidification, irrigation, terraced fields, returning farmland to forests and grasslands, etc. Thanks to all these measures, this area reveals an increase in vegetation cover, improvement in soil quality, increasing water content and water retention capacity, and improved land productivity and ecosystem.
GF-2 image taken on July 23, 2015. Bands: R(3)G(2)B(1) (Image by AIR)
GF-2 image taken on July 24, 2021. Bands: R(3)G(2)B(1) (Image by AIR)
Jinta County, Gansu Province
This area is located in Jinta County, Gansu Province. It is the No.315th forest planted by Ant Forest Project, and the tree species planted is Populus euphratica. Populus euphratica is a tree adapted to desert environment, which can tolerate high salinity and drought, and is an important tree species in desert greening. Through remote sensing images, it can be observed that the planting area in 2021 has increased significantly compared with that in 2018.
GF-2 image acquired on June 12, 2018. Bands: R(3)G(4)B(2) (Image by AIR)
GF-2 image acquired on August 23, 2021. Bands: R(3)G(4)B(2) (Image by AIR)
Millennium Forest in Xiong’an New Area, Hebei Province
Under the principle of prioritizing the ecological environment, the Qiannian Xiulin, or Millennium Forest afforestation project was launched in 2017 in Xiong’an New Area, a new special zone located roughly 120km from Beijing. The program aims to increase vegetation cover from 11% to 40% to form ecological buffer zones between urban areas. The total area planted with forest by the Millennium Forest project had reached more than 20,000 h (200 km2) by the end of 2019, increasing forest coverage from 11% to 22.7%. 

GF-2 image acquired on July 3, 2019. Bands: R(3)G(2)B(1) (Image by AIR)
GF-2 image acquired on July 21, 2022. Bands: R(3)G(2)B(1) (Image by AIR) 
Saihanba, Hebei Province
Saihanba, the world's largest artificial forest in Hebei Province. In 2017, the Saihanba afforestation community scooped the UN Champions of the Earth Award for its outstanding contribution to the restoration of degraded landscapes. With a total forest landscape of 1.15 million mu (about 76,700 hectares), Saihanba has become a national forest park and nature reserve as well as an important ecological shield for Beijing and adjacent regions. 
Landsat images acquired in 1986, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013, and 2018. (Image by AIR)