Yellow River Crossing Loess Plateau, China35.9N 109.3E
The tan areas occupying most of this image are part of the Loess Plateau, also known as the Huangtu Plateau, in China. The plateau covers an area of some 640,000 km². Upon opening the full image, the Yellow River can be seen, yellowish in color from sediments as the name suggests, flowing vertically down the right side of the image.
Loess is the name for the silty sediment that has been deposited by wind storms on the plateau over the ages. Loess is a highly erosion-prone soil that is susceptible to the forces of wind and water; in fact, the soil of this region has been called the most highly erodible soil on earth. The Loess Plateau and its dusty soil cover almost all of Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and parts of others.
The Loess Plateau was highly fertile and easy to farm in ancient times, which contributed to the development of early Chinese civilization around the Loess Plateau. However, centuries of deforestation and over-grazing, exacerbated by China’s population increase, have resulted in degenerated ecosystems, desertification, and poor local economies.
In 1994 an effort known as the Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project was launched to mitigate desertification. Many trees were planted and nature is now reclaiming a portion of the Loess Plateau, as can be observed by the green areas. Results have also reduced the massive silt loads to the Yellow River by about one percent.