Effect of ecological restoration programs on dust concentrations in the North China Plain: a case study

Long, Xin; Tie, Xuexi; Li, Guohui; Cao, Junji; Feng, Tian; Zhao, Shuyu; Xing, Li; An, Zhisheng

In recent decades, the Chinese government has made a great effort in initiating large-scale ecological restoration programs (ERPs) to reduce the dust concentrations in China, especially for dust storm episodes. Using the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) land cover product, the ERP-induced land cover changes are quantitatively evaluated in this study. Two obvious vegetation protective barriers arise throughout China from the southwest to the northeast, which are well known as the “Green Great Wall” (GGW). Both the grass GGW and forest GGW are located between the dust source region (DSR) and the densely populated North China Plain (NCP). To assess the effect of ERPs on dust concentrations, a regional transport/dust model (WRF-DUST, Weather Research and Forecast model with dust) is applied to investigate the evolution of dust plumes during a strong dust storm episode from 2 to 8 March 2016. The WRF-DUST model generally performs reasonably well in reproducing the temporal variations and spatial distributions of near-surface [PMC] (mass concentration of particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter between 2.5 and 10 inline-formulaµm) during the dust storm event. Sensitivity experiments have indicated that the ERP-induced GGWs help to reduce the dust concentration in the NCP, especially in BTH (Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei). When the dust storm is transported from the upwind DSR to the downwind NCP, the [PMC] reduction ranges from inline-formula−5 to inline-formula−15 % in the NCP, with a maximum reduction of inline-formula−12.4 % (inline-formula−19.2inline-formulaµg minline-formula−3) in BTH and inline-formula−7.6 % (inline-formula−10.1inline-formulaµg minline-formula−3) in the NCP. We find the dust plumes move up to the upper atmosphere and are transported from the upwind DSR to the downwind NCP, accompanied by dust decrease. During the episode, the forest GGW is nonsignificant in dust concentration control because it is of benefit for dry deposition and not for emission. Conversely, the grass GGW is beneficial in controlling dust erosion and is the dominant reason for [PMC] decrease in the NCP. Because the air pollution is severe in eastern China, especially in the NCP, and the contribution of dust episodes is significant, the reduction of dust concentrations will have important effects on severe air pollution. This study illustrates the considerable contribution of ERPs to the control of air pollution in China, especially in springtime.

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Long, Xin / Tie, Xuexi / Li, Guohui / et al: Effect of ecological restoration programs on dust concentrations in the North China Plain: a case study. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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