Only by understanding the past can one plan the future. Lop Nur has the characteristic of “Ear” feature. Lop Nur was born from the end of the Tertiary to the beginning of the Quaternary and has a history of millions of years. As the watershed center of the entire Tarim Basin, the lake area reached 20,000 square kilometers in the historical period, and there are traces of human activity before the history. In the past 2000, the climate and environment in Lop Nur has changed drastically, which has become a typical case of environmental evolution in arid regions, and is also a microcosm of the historical, geographical, and environmental evolution in Xinjiang and even Central Asia.
Lop Nur has many stories about it, the mystery of the big ear, the mysterious disappearance of the Loulan ancient country, and the bare bones that were found… This seemingly calm place is always shocking, puzzling, and obsessing. As of now, there is no biodiversity survey on the Lop Nur system.
In July 2020, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) decided to officially launch the “Lop Nur Biodiversity Survey and Monitoring” project with a ten-year period and 2020 as the starting year. The goals set by this ambitious project include digging into the past and examining the present.
On September 1, the relevant departments of the CBCGDF discussed the ecological scientific investigation plan of Lop Nur’s biodiversity and hydrology collected in the early stage.
Lop Nur is a large dry lake located in the southeast of China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It is an important node of the country’s Silk Road and has witnessed the rise and fall of human civilization in the region (such as the ancient Loulan) in history. Research shows that over 65 million years, the overall uplift of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has blocked the water vapor channel that reaches the plateau and penetrates into the northwestern region of China, causing the regional climate and ecosystem to be reshaped, and the climate in the region has gradually become arid. At the beginning of the last century, with the development of production and life in the Lop Nur area, water consumption increased sharply, which exacerbated the aridification process of the regional ecological environment, and eventually Lop Nur became the “sea of death”.
However, scientists have noticed that the continuous climate warming in recent decades is changing the global hydrological cycle. For example, observational data show that the critical point of China’s climate has drifted over a large area, and the precipitation in semi-arid and arid areas in the north has shown a clear increasing trend in recent years. The vegetation in the arid areas of the north is also recovering on a large scale, the Tarim Basin and Qaidam Basin, which were once extremely dry, also began to see large areas of rainfall. Against this background of climate warming and humidification, can Lop Nur, a lake that “dead” due to drought, be restored to life and reproduce the scene of blue waves? The CBCGDF “Lop Nur Biodiversity Survey and Monitoring (2020-2030)” large-scale scientific expedition project was proposed in this context.
The “Scientific Expedition Plan for Lop Nur Biodiversity and Hydrological Ecology” clearly stated that it will mainly focus on the status quo of biodiversity, including the Lop Nur hydrological system; In the past 60 years, the development and construction of farmland and water conservancy projects in the region has affected biodiversity and hydrological ecosystems; During the warm and humid climate, Lop Nur biodiversity and hydrological ecosystem change trend; Cross-regional water transfer projects affect scientific issues such as the feasibility of regional biodiversity and hydrological ecosystem restoration.
The specific content of the scientific expedition will involve the watershed ecosystem and species types of Lop Nur, survey and monitoring related to quantity, distribution and change; Investigation and monitoring of the distribution of water conservancy projects and ecological flow in the upper reaches of Lop Nur; Site selection, construction and operation monitoring of the comprehensive observation station of Lop Nur river and desert ecosystem, etc.
The scientific expedition team is expected to set off at the end of September 2020 to carry out the first phase of investigation and observation. The scientific expedition team will conduct surveys and investigations on the natural and humanistic background of the basin; Collect samples of aquatic organisms, soil, desert plants, insects, microorganisms, and genes, and carry out site selections for long-term field observation stations and regular observation points.
Zhou Jinfeng, Secretary-General of CBCGDF, as well as the research department, publicity department and other departments of the CBDGDF participated in the discussion meeting of the Lop Nur Biodiversity and Hydrological and Ecological Science Expedition Program. Dr. Zhou emphasized at the meeting that the scientific investigation of biodiversity in Lop Nur should focus on the macro perspective and the overall perspective of the ecosystem and should focus on carrying out various scientific investigations from three dimensions. One is to record, that is, to record the current status of biological diversity in Lop Nur to the greatest extent, from the micro to the macro, from the level of ecosystem, species, and genes. The second is to focus on change research, that is, to explore and predict the evolution of regional ecosystems through the study of basic data on Lop Nur’s biodiversity. The third is to carry out interventional experiments to improve the regional ecosystem.
“In the context of climate change, we both oppose ‘man can conquer nature’, nor do we agree that we do nothing at all. Instead, we stick to nature and act accordingly. We hope that under the premise of adapting to climate change, moderate intervention or research on ecological evolution, for example, by comparing experimental samples, exploring how to economically and effectively strengthen the vitality of regional ecosystems and develop in a good direction,” said Dr. Zhou.
This Lop Nur Biodiversity Scientific Expedition welcomes the participation of all sectors of the society, and reserves an inspection place for the media, welcome to register.
Original Chinese article:
By / Maggie, Zhang Daqian