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Introduction

Desertification was defined as "land degradation in arid, semi-arid or sub-humid dry areas resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities" in the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). About two-thirds of the countries of the world, one-fifth of the global population and one-fourth of the land of the earth are now affected by desertification with a direct economic loss about USS 42.3 billion every year. Desertification has become a source of poverty and a constraint to socioeconomic sustainable development. Combating desertification, ecological improvement and sustainable development is an imperative hard task for the world.

China is one of the countries with a large area, wide coverage and heavy losses from desertification and sand encroachment in the world. With rapid increase of population and driven by economic benefits in socioeconomic development, various human activities that deteriorate vegetation in sandy areas had prevailed, such as over-grazing, wasteland cultivation, excessive firewood gathering, excessive gathering of arenicolous plants and irrational use of water resources, tte serious land desertification and sand encroachment have been threatening China's ecological security and sustainable socio-economic development.

Upon the entry of the twenty-first century, Chinese government raised its attention to desertification combating and incorporated desertification management oriented ecological improvement into the economic and social development plan. Consequently several significant actions were taken, including promulgation and execution of the Desertification Combating Law; release of the State Council Decision About Further Accelerating the Desertification and Sadification Combating Work, formulation of the National Desertification and Sadification Combating Plan. A number of key programs on sand enchroachment prevention and control have been launched and implemented, such as the six major forestry programs, grassland protection and improvement program, small watershed integrated program.

In order to master the status and dynamic changes of desertification and sand encroachment land nationwide, national monitoring survey for desertification was carried out three times in 1994, 1999, and 2004, respectively, tte results of the 3rd national monitoring survey for desertification and sand encroachment show that the expansion tendency of desertification and sand encroachment in China has been primarily brought under control and the 'stalemate of rehabilitation and destruction' has been realized (State Forestry Administration, 2005).

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