23-29 January 2012
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Mongolian Spruce (Picea
Credit & Copyright:
Bruce G. Marcot, Ph.D.
Explanation: This is the story of a nature reserve with a lesson about cultural tolerance.
to the seldom-visited Baiyinaobao Nature Reserve in a remote corner of Inner
Mongolia, China. It is winter and very cold. We are in the
west-central corner of Chifeng
Municipality, having just climbed to 1495 m
(4900 ft) elevation to visit this site.
This tree grows at higher elevations and also here in a largely desertified region.
Although tree-cutting is
prohibited in this reserve, you can see what seems to be areas of small,
evenly-spaced seedlings and saplings, apparently planted perhaps to regenerate
There used to be a lamasery within the Reserve boundaries. The Buddhist lamas here taught the locals that the trees are sacred and if you cut them down then the gods will serve revenge.
Then the New China appeared, razed the lamasery, and drove out the lamas. Since then, the prohibition against cutting was lifted, and the forest cover has declined from its original 40,470 hectares (100,000 acres) to its current 2,430 hectares (6,000 acres), barely preserving a fraction of the original forest and its native plants and animals.
And concomitantly, the region not
within the current reserve boundary has suffered increasing desertification, and
decreasing productivity of its grasslands and rangelands.
So this is a story of how loss of cultural diversity has caused the loss of biological diversity and productivity of the land. Culture, society, and ecosystems are indeed tied inextricably, a lesson that, apparently, we all need to continually relearn.
Next week's picture: Flood Plain New and Old
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