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Report on

Population Changes and Land Degradation in
Xinjiang of China

Principal Investigator: Jiang Leiwen
Institute of Population Research, Peking University

Collaborators: Tong Yufen
Xinjiang University

Zhao Zhijie and Li Tianhong
Institute of Environmental Study, Peking University

Asian MetaCentre for Population and
Sustainable Development Analysis

Sponsored by: The Wellcome Trust
United Kingdom


Funded by the Wellcome Trust Foundation, the “Population Changes and Land Degradation in Xinjiang,China” research project formally started on February 1, 2002. The project is a collaborative effort by Peking University, Xinjiang University and the Asian MetaCentre for Population and Sustainable Development Analysis, with close cooperation among the members of the research team, which comprised of Jiang Leiwen as the principal investigator, Tong Yufen as the co-applicant, and Zhao Zhijie and Li Tianhong as the collaborators. The research activities carried out and the progress achieved are as follows:

1. Based on the research conducted by the project team members and others (including both Chinese and international scholars), we are writing three literature review papers, including:
• An historical review of population migration in Xinjiang from 1950 to 2000
• A literature review on the studies of relationships between migration and land use/land cover changes
• A literature review on land degradation – concepts and index of measurements

2. We conducted the first phase of fieldwork in Xinjiang in August 2002, including:
• Preparations for the fieldwork, including several meetings with research investigators, assistants, graduate students, consultants; contacts with relevant governmental and academic organizations
• The sourcing of a possible field site by inspecting over 4000 square kilometers of land in the northern and southern parts of Xinjiang. The site chosen is the Tarim River Basin, particularly Yuli County in the middle- and down-stream areas of Tarim River as the research site
• Exploration of the environmental, socio-economic, political, and cultural conditions along the Tarim River, from its source to its end point in the desert
• Experiments of land samplings and records in specific field sites

3. Fieldwork at Shihezi in October
• As a complement to the fieldwork, the research team made a second trip to Shihezi, a city completely built up by in-migrants since the early 1950s, and collected data in general, and data on migration in particular.

4. The research materials collected from the fieldwork were organised, including (1) statistical yearbooks, census data and annals of the counties, prefectures, construction corps, and reports and technical manuals from government departments and academic institutions; (2) video records of the landscape. Research assistants and graduate students are scanning and keying in the data, and constructing the databank.

5. We managed to purchase the earliest maps available (1958) from aerial photogrammetrical surveys for Yuli County. They have been scanned and digitised by researchers, for purposes of providing the comparative studies with a baseline of landscape and population before the beginning of the movement of large volumes of migrants.

6. From the data centre of the China Academy of Science and other relevant organizations, we purchased 1:1,000,000 administrative and ecological GIS data (1995-1996) for Xinjiang, remote sensing data (LANDSAT TM) for the year 1999 and the middle of 1980s for Yuli County, as well as selective socio-economic data in the years of 1980-2000 for Xinjiang. Researchers are analyzing these datasets, and will provide the complete records on the situation of land use and the trend of land degradation in the research area for the year of 1999 and the middle of 1980s. In the meantime, we are looking to purchase remote sensing data for Yuli County in the middle of 1970s from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

7. Based on the work conducted in the past year, we are writing a paper “Impacts of Population Migration on Land Degradation in Tarim River Basin, Xinjiang of China”. Its abstract has been accepted by the annual meeting of Population Association of America and will be presented at Session 159 “Land use and migration” of this meeting.

8. A website of the project is being constructed and will be ready soon.




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