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on the ground in china

The pace of social, economic, and environmental changes underway in China has the world’s attention. Scholars from the College of Natural Resources have long been engaged with China, with collaborations on topics ranging from invasive species, biocontrol, and transgenic crops to income distribution and educational performance. Here are just a few of CNR’s projects happening on the ground in China.

(Click on any hotspot on the map to view work done in that region of the country).

In the Eastern Himalayan region of Yunnan Province, Cooperative Extension Specialist Matteo Garbelotto and graduate student Anthony Amend are studying the link between harvesting pressures and conservation efforts on Matsutake mushrooms. One of the most expensive mushrooms on earth (sold in Japan for over $5,000 per pound), the Matsutake is crucial to local livelihoods and prized for medicinal properties and exceptional flavor. The researchers are examining how the makeup of forests may affect the growth of these prized fungi, and how the mushrooms’ genetic distribution affects their resilience in the wake of fires and logging.

In preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing authorities transplanted 9 million large saplings to beautify Beijing and decrease noise and smog. An expert in forest ecology, Professor Joe McBride is now studying how the tree planting has fared by analyzing the area of canopy cover. His research focuses on the practice of transplanting large saplings, particularly its cost effectiveness, and associated long-term problems.

Professor Sheng Luan recently founded China’s first top-tier, English-language plant biology journal, Molecular Plant. The publication aims to provide an outlet for outstanding research in China, and to link China’s researchers with the rest of the international community. Luan refers to this project as the “new Silk Road in plant sciences,” and he expects the journal to become a significant platform for exchange among plant scientists, both within and outside of China.

Migrating herds of livestock have been part of the Inner Mongolian ecosystem for at least 1,000 years. But the pastoralists who raise these herds are facing vast changes: national policy has been to reduce grazing, replacing herding with dairies, farms, and ranches. To cope, herders are leasing and sharing rangelands, adopting farming and dairy production, and participating in tourist enterprises. With assistance from CNR rangeland ecologist Lynn Huntsinger, Li Wenjun, a professor at Peking University (the institution uses the old spelling), is evaluating the impacts of these changes on ecosystems and the herders’ way of life.

Fire and other ecosystem disturbances play an important role in maintaining biodiversity, but wildfires in a Chinese reserve or state forest are considered management failures. Max Moritz, co-director of the Center for Fire Research and Outreach, and post-doctoral researcher Meg Krawchuk are working with The Nature Conservancy to look at how China’s current approach to fire management may be affecting biodiversity in the 11,500-acre Songshan National Nature Reserve. The researchers hope to help land managers decide where fire may be a necessary management tool for ecosystem conservation.

Professor Norman Terry’s lab is collaborating with Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing to develop methods to increase production of Chinese herbs for medicinal purposes. His lab is studying how biotechnology and different growing techniques can help increase production of the over-harvested snow lotus, a Himalayan herb that has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory. They are also looking to increase the potency of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin, which comes from the plant Artemisia.