Grasslands and Grassland Sciences in Northern China is a report produced by the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People's Republic of China (CSCPRC) under contract with the Division of International Programs of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The explicit purpose of reports in this series is to inform the international scholarly community about the current state of a particular branch of science in China, including the personnel, training, organization, funding, research, and public policies related to this field. The implicit hope is that these reports will help catalyze scientific work in China and collaboration between Chinese and foreign scholars. Topics for reports produced under this arrangement are chosen by agreement between the CSCPRC and the NSF.
Several factors favored the selection of this topic as the focus of the initial report. First, both China and the United States have large areas of relatively fragile arid and semiarid lands, dominated by grasses, which are subject to grazing by domestic livestock and wildlife. There are similarities between these Asian and American ecosystems: They share similar (ecologically equivalent) plants, and the structures of the two vegetation communities are regulated by comparable climatic gradients that extend across both continents. There are also differences: Compared to North America, Central Asia enjoys a significantly shorter period of precipitation, most of which occurs during the growing season, and a dearth of warm-season (C4) grasses. The pressures of human population, social and economic organizations, and land use and resource exploitation patterns also differ widely between the two societies. These similarities and differences provide an excellent opportunity for scientists and laymen in China and the United States to learn more about their own country
and its landscape by studying the resources and experiences of the other. Second, although each country has a critical mass of scholars and scholarship devoted to the study of grassland ecosystems, the two scholarly communities have had relatively little contact and very limited knowledge of each other's work. Third, the manner in which scientists study ecosystems including grasslands is itself changing—away from the separate inquiries of discrete disciplines and toward an integrated, interdisciplinary, systems-oriented approach. Scientists in both countries must wrestle with the intellectually and politically difficult problem of dealing with a multitude of factors that affect relations between economic viability and a healthy environment. Finally, grasslands and other arid and semiarid lands have become an object of serious international concern. Some observers believe that human activities are responsible for converting grasslands, savannas, and other dry grazinglands into deserts. This issue is nowhere more urgent than in northern China, where population pressure and environmental sustainability have collided head-on. Likewise, concern over global climate change has focused attention on the midcontinent regions of temperate Asia and North America, where global warming may have great ecological and economic impacts. For all these reasons, this is an opportune time to engage scientists in China and the United States in a dialogue that promises to benefit the people of both countries and the cause of science everywhere.
A similar study, carried out in another part of the world, might have adopted somewhat different terminology. In North America, Australia, and elsewhere, scientists engaged in the sort of work described in this report might call their subject ''grassland ecosystems,'' "grazingland ecosystems," or "range science"—disciplines that put as much emphasis on soils, livestock and other system components as on vegetation. In China, this scientific domain has been somewhat less comprehensive and more specifically focused on plants. On the other hand, the Chinese use "grassland" to cover all types of vegetation that are exploited as forage for grazing or browsing animals, including grasses, shrubs, and trees—making this term synonymous with "grazingland" as used in the United States. Chinese grassland scientists and institutions, as they describe themselves and as described in this report, study the entire spectrum of arid and semiarid ecosystems, not just those areas dominated by grasses.
Work on this report began in the summer of 1990 with a series of meetings among Chinese, American, and other scholars who had previous experience doing research on grasslands, China, or both. Based on information obtained at these meetings, the CSCPRC staff identified the people, institutions, and regions in China that should be featured in the report, the scholars who should carry it out, the scope that the report should cover, and the process by which it should be accomplished. Because of the broad geographical distribution of grasslands and grazinglands in China and the limited resources available for the task at hand, it was decided that the report should focus
on the northern tier, excluding Tibet, Sichuan, and the Southwest, whose grassland resources will have to await some future consideration.
After these preliminary soundings, the next step was to engage China's grassland scientists directly. In September 1990, a delegation composed of Dr. James Ellis, associate director of the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory of Colorado State University and a leading expert on grazingland ecosystems, Dr. James Reardon-Anderson, director of the CSCPRC, and Ms. Beryl Leach, CSCPRC program officer for science and technology, visited grassland research institutes and field sites in Beijing, Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia. Selection of institutions included in this itinerary was made by the CSCPRC in consultation with the Bureau of International Cooperation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which assisted with logistical and other arrangements. Before the delegation left for China, each institution was sent a description of the project and a detailed list of questions the report would seek to answer. In China, the delegation spent between two hours and two days at each of 21 research institutes, field stations, university departments, and government agencies. At every stop, the hosts provided a thorough briefing, publications and other written materials to supplement the oral presentations, and ample opportunity to ask additional questions. It is obvious that this report could not have been written without the generous and effective cooperation of our Chinese colleagues. Notes taken and materials gathered in the course of these visits form the basis for the descriptions of Chinese grassland institutions that appear in Chapters 9 through 13.
Also in the fall of 1990, CSCPRC contracted with seven scholars—six Chinese and one American—to review the literature published in Chinese in recent years dealing with various regions and aspects of the northern grasslands. These reviews, which appear in Chapters 2 through 8, are signed documents whose contents represent the views of the respective authors. With one exception, the authors are Chinese who have been educated and/or have worked in the institutions where the research they describe has been carried out. One of them, Zhang Xinshi (Chang Hsin-shih), is director of the CAS Institute of Botany and a major figure in the field of grassland studies in China. Another, Ma Rong, is a professor in the Institute of Sociology at National Peking University. The others are younger scientists now working or studying in the United States, who have significant experience in grassland science and close contact with colleagues in China.
In April 1991, a draft report containing the results of the work described above was presented to the Grassland Study Review Panel, appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, for review. The panel, which was chaired by Dr. James Ellis and included nine other scholars in various fields of the natural and social sciences (see list of panel members) made the following recommendations. First, members of the panel, assisted by the CSCPRC staff, should conduct additional research to complete portions of the report that had not
been covered adequately in the initial draft. Second, the authors of the literature reviews should be sent comments and suggestions made by members of the panel and given an opportunity to revise their reviews prior to publication. Third, members of the panel should draft, and the panel as a whole approve, a concluding chapter discussing certain key issues raised directly or indirectly by their Chinese colleagues in the literature reviews and site visits. Finally, the panel concluded that with these changes and additions, the report would fulfill the stated goal of providing valuable and timely information on the current state of grassland sciences in China and would make a significant contribution to advancing scholarship and scholarly collaboration in this field.
During the summer of 1991, the recommendations of the panel were carried out. Authors of the literature reviews received the panel's comments and submitted their final drafts. The sections describing Chinese scientific institutions were sent to the heads of these institutions, who were invited to make comments or corrections. Their responses have been incorporated into the final document. A second delegation, including panel chairman, James Ellis, panel member Jerrold Dodd, and CSCPRC director, James Reardon-Anderson, visited grassland institutes and research sites in China not covered in the previous trip and gathered material to augment relevant sections of the study. Several panel members provided additional information and wrote sections of the concluding chapter. The final draft was completed in August, circulated to all panel members, and approved. It was then submitted to the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council, which approved it for publication by the National Academy Press.
In recommending this report for publication, the panel wishes to make clear that it does not necessarily agree with or support all of the statements contained in the literature reviews (Chapters 2–8) or made in the course of the site visits (Chapters 9–13). The panel believes that the most effective way to present the current state of grassland science in China is to allow Chinese scholars and scholarship to speak for themselves. At the same time, members of the panel hope to extend the dialogue with their colleagues in China by discussing (Chapter 14) some of the key issues raised in these chapters. Chinese and foreign scholars may view these issues differently, but together they must confront them in order to understand and overcome the common challenges of the future.
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When this report was first conceived, the authors hoped to review a broad spectrum of factors affecting and scholarly approaches to the grazinglands of China. We have succeeded only in part. Most of the material on the following pages focuses on a limited range of topics, dealing primarily with vegetation types, distribution, or conditions. We have been unable to develop many
of the important links to geology, meteorology, animal husbandry, or the social sciences. Part of the explanation for this lies in the shortage of time and other resources necessary to produce this report. Partly, we fell victim to the manner in which Chinese scholars are organized to study grasslands and most other subjects as well.
Research and education in grassland science, as in other areas of Chinese science, are assigned to research institutes and university departments under the jurisdiction of separate administrative or bureaucratic "systems" [xitong]. In this case, the three most important systems are under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), and the State Educational Commission (SEdC). Each of these systems tends to segment scientific disciplines and scholarly activities into separate departments, institutes, or laboratories that can be resistant to interactions with other units. We went to China in search of the centers of grassland science; we found what we were looking for; and in most cases the discoveries led us to competent and hard-working scientists with adequate facilities, pursuing credible research within the contours of their established disciplines. Less often did we find a broad, interdisciplinary approach that the panel believes essential for the study of grasslands and other ecosystems in China as elsewhere.
We were reminded, moreover, that the character of Chinese science retains the mark of China's recent history. Structures erected during the 1950s, when China was under Soviet influence, remain in place. The research institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Academy of Agricultural Sciences continue to play a dominant role, to deepen research efforts in their respective areas of expertise, and to limit the movement of people and ideas across institutional lines. China and Chinese science were closed to the outside world in the 1960s and early 1970s, at the time ecosystem science was being transformed by new concepts, as exemplified by the International Biological Program (IBP); new technologies, such as remote sensing and computer modeling; and new approaches that integrate the traditional disciplines into holistic views of nature. During the past decade, Chinese scientists have come to appreciate the possibilities offered by these developments, and changes are now under way to adopt and adapt them to Chinese needs. We discovered evidence both that this process is underway and that progress takes time.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, the leading organization for scientific research in China, maintains 127 institutes for basic and applied research in a wide range of specialties. These institutes are located throughout China, often in areas closely related to their scientific missions. For work in the field of grassland science, the most important institutes and other units under the CAS are the Institute of Botany (Beijing); the Institute of Zoology (Beijing); the Institute of Remote Sensing (Beijing); the Commission for the Integrated Survey of Natural Resources (Beijing); the Bureau of Resources and Environment (Beijing); the Institute of Applied Ecology (Shenyang); the Institute of Desert
Research (Lanzhou); the Northwest Plateau Institute of Biology (Xining); and the Institute of Biology, Pedology, and Psammology (Urumqi).
The Ministry of Agriculture is charged with administering and promoting the development of agriculture and animal husbandry. The ministry supports research and education through the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the several agricultural colleges and universities under MOA control. The most important units in this system for the study of grasslands are the Grasslands Research Institute (Hohhot); the Institute of Animal Science (Beijing); the Institute of Animal Science (Lanzhou); the Gansu Grassland Ecological Research Institute (Lanzhou, administered jointly with the Gansu provincial government); the Inner Mongolia College of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (Hohhot); the Gansu Agricultural University (Lanzhou); and the August First Agricultural College (Urumqi).
The State Educational Commission, the highest educational authority in China, administers three colleges and universities that have programs for the study of grassland science: namely, Northeast Normal University (Changchun), Inner Mongolia University (Hohhot), and Lanzhou University (Lanzhou).
This is a brief introduction to the material presented in the following pages. We begin with an overview of the ecological and social systems of the grasslands of northern China (Chapter 1). The literature reviews (Chapters 2–8) and reports on site visits (Chapters 9–13) represent the views of the several authors, information from the literature itself, and information obtained from the various institutions in China. In the concluding chapter (Chapter 14), members of the National Academy of Sciences review panel offer their comments on some of the key issues raised in this study, the way these issues have been treated in China and elsewhere, and the challenge scientists throughout the world face in attempting to deal with these issues, now and in the future.
We close this introduction with a word of thanks to our colleagues in China who have made the study of China's grasslands their lives' work and in so doing have given all of us a better understanding of one of world's great natural resources. Our immediate task is to report on the state of grassland sciences in China, but we admit to another motive—namely, to prepare the way for greater collaboration among scientists inside and outside of China who are engaged in this important enterprise.