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 寒旱区科学  2018, Vol. 10 Issue (3): 251-260  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2018.00251 0

### Citation

Wang R, Zhou LH, Chen Y. 2018. Comprehensive benefits assessment of the ecological management model in Hobq Desert of China. Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions, 10(3): 251-260. DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2018.00251.
[复制英文]

### Correspondence to

LiHua Zhou, Institutes of Science and Development, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 15, Zhongguancun Road, Beijing 100190, China. Tel: +86-931-4967550; E-mail: lhzhou@lzb.ac.cn

### Article History

Accepted: March 5, 2018
Comprehensive benefits assessment of the ecological management model in Hobq Desert of China
Rui Wang 1, LiHua Zhou 2, Yong Chen 3
1. College of Land and Resources, China West Normal University, Nanchong, Sichuan 637009, China;
2. Institutes of Science and Development, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China;
3. Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
Abstract: The Hobq Desert is the seventh largest desert in China. Since 1988, the effects of ecological management in Hobq Desert have been obvious and a typical desertification control model developed gradually, which is well known as the "Hobq model". It is important to evaluate the comprehensive benefits of the "Hobq model", but this has not been addressed in previous studies. Thus, we established an index system to comprehensively evaluate the benefits of the "Hobq model", using an analytic hierarchy process method from 1988 to 2013. The results show the following: ecological benefits of the "Hobq model" had a positive trend, but with fluctuations during 2008 and 2009; economic benefits increased by 74% and the maximum value occurred in 2013; and social benefits increased steadily, but with fluctuations in 2010 and 2011. The social benefits were higher than ecological and economic benefits in the same period. Trends in overall benefits of the "Hobq model" were similar to changes in ecological benefits, which increased each year.
Key words: benefit assessment    comprehensive benefit    ecological management    Hobq model

1 Introduction

Desertification is a major environmental problem throughout the world, which causes deterioration of the ecological environment, as well as reducing the utility of limited resources, thereby seriously affecting the sustainable development of the social economy (Zhu, 2015). China is one of the areas of the world that is affected most severely by desertification. Monitoring data indicate that in 2014, total land area affected by desertification in China was 1.72×106 km2, which accounted for 17.93% of the total land area (Yi and Zhao, 2016) and annual economic losses of about 54 billion yuan (Maestre et al., 2012 ). The fragile ecosystems in areas affected by desertification as well as irrational human activity that lead to desertification have intensified. Therefore, it is important to control desertification to restore the ecological environment and improve the living standards of the people, thereby promoting sustainable development of the regional economy and society (Liu, 2005).

Desertification is associated with human social and economic activity, and is closely related to population size, economy, policies, and other factors (Irshad et al., 2007 ). It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of desertification control to assess the development of the national economy in areas affected by desertification (Zhao and Jia, 2008). In recent years, desertification management evaluation research has focused on forest ecological and comprehensive benefits (Koohmaraie and Shackelford, 1991; Costanza et al., 1999 ; Qu, 2007; Li, 2009). Research on desertification management in China have focused mainly on the ecological benefits of vegetation, economic benefits of protecting forests, and an index system for comprehensively evaluating benefits (Kong et al., 2007 ; Zhou and Dong, 2007; Li, 2009; Niu et al., 2009 ; Liu, 2010; Chen et al., 2012 ). Previous studies of desertification have involved evaluations of ecological restoration and benefits based on single elements. From the perspective of sustainable development and ecological economic theory, integrated studies of ecological, economic, and social benefits are relatively rare.

The Hobq Desert is the seventh largest desert in China. During nearly 30 years of ecological restoration in this area, a desertification management model has developed gradually into the "Hobq model", which aims to improve the desert ecology, develop desert industry, and eradicate poverty in this area (Wang et al., 2017 ). The United Nations successfully hosted the only global international forum called the Hobq International Desert Forum over five sessions, where Azim Steiner, the deputy secretary general of the UN, indicated that the "Hobq model" is a very good practical example of the development of the green and ecological civilization in China, which will affect the future of the world (Fourrier, 2015). Luck, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification secretariat, noted that China's Hobq Desert could act as a typical model for guiding investments, corporate social groups, and support most people who are actively involved in global desertification prevention and control (Grandserre, 2014). Hatoyama Yukio, the former Japanese Prime Minister, believes that the "Hobq model" in China can prevent desertification, but it can also be extended to other types of environmental protection (Guo et al., 2017 ). It has also been stated that the Hobq Desert is a very successful green economic demonstration area, but it was questioned whether the model can be copied (Fourrier, 2015). At the Paris Climate Change Conference, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Peking University published "China's Hobq eco-wealth creation model and achievement report", which included a systematic summary of the Hobq eco-wealth creation model, but benefits of the "Hobq model" was not evaluated. The Hobq model may be considered a microcosm of ecological civilization construction in China, and provides an example of global transformation and influences the international community. However, few studies have evaluated desertification management, and quantitative benefit evaluation of the Hobq model has not yet had relevant research results. Therefore, the present study assessed the Hobq model by using an evaluation index system to determine the comprehensive benefits of the Hobq model, as well as evaluating its ecological, economic, social, and comprehensive benefits from 1988 to 2013. These evaluations provide a scientific basis for understanding the ecological management of Hobq desertification and sustainable development of the regional social economy.

2 Overview of the Hobq model

The total area of the Hobq Desert is about 1.45×106 hm2. The desert is about 400 km long from east to west, and the north–south width is 50 km in the west and 15–20 km in the east. Sand dune chains and grid dunes are the main features, and flowing sand dunes account for 61% of the total area. The average annual precipitation in the Hobq Desert is about 300 mm and annual mean temperature is 6.2 °C (Chen et al., 2008 ).

In the 1980s, governments at all levels, as well as enterprises and individuals became actively involved in the ecological management of the Hobq Desert. Ecological management of the Hobq Desert can be divided into the following stages: (1) the passive afforestation stage (1988–1995), it was a stage of ecological construction, but lacked funds, technology, talent, as well as management experience; (2) the active afforestation stage (1996–2001), all levels of government placed great importance on management and enterprises took the initiative in desert control; (3) the ideal afforestation stage (2002–2003), some enterprises took march into the desert, but they were eager to achieve success; (4) the rational and reasonable sand control stage (2004–2006), scientific afforestation techniques were developed and the effects on sand management were remarkable; (5) the scientific and large-scale afforestation stage (2007–2015), the Hobq model was formulated and its governance from the northern margin of Hobq Desert extended to the south.

The Hobq model is a typical desertification management model based on ecological resources, which is supported by technological innovation and driven by technology development, such as industry-driven sand control, in order to improve the livelihood of local people. This pattern prioritizes ecological development and the livelihood of people, achieving the interactive multi-win situation of: "sand prevention and control, industrial development, ecological improvement, social stability, ethnic unity, and wealthy people". At present, the Hobq Desert model has implemented systems for desert ecological management, clean energy, natural medicine, modern agriculture, ecological towns, and ecological tourism (Figure 1). The successful development of the Hobq model in this desert area has played an exemplary role in facilitating desertification control and economic development in other areas.

 Figure 1 Map showing the ecological management systems for plantations and the industrial model in Hobq Desert
3 Methods and data sources 3.1 Methodology

We used the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) method to evaluate comprehensive benefits of the Hobq model. AHP is a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to decision making. In this method, related elements of the decision problem are decomposed into the target layer, criterion layer, and solutions, which makes the complex decision-making process hierarchical, and the analysis is then performed gradually at all levels (Yuwen et al., 2001 ; Gao et al., 2010 ).

In order to quantitatively evaluate the benefits of the Hobq model, we treated the eco-economic system of the Hobq Desert as the research object. In order to use the eco-economic system in the Hobq Desert to build an AHP model, we invited six experts in the governance of desertification to rate the importance of each index in order to determine index weights before calculating the benefits of the Hobq model.

3.1.1 Construction of the evaluation index system

Benefits of the Hobq model are affected by many factors, which depend on the actual ecological management situation in the Hobq Desert. Through field investigation, combined with the actual situation of the Hobq model, we selected 14 evaluation indices which reflect the comprehensive benefit of the Hobq model. According to previous research results, choosing the most representative and readily quantifiable evaluation index should be based on the following principles: comprehensive evaluation combined with general evaluation, scientific principles, operational principles, and systemic combined with independent (Chen, 2014).

According to the aforementioned principles to select the evaluation index system by considering the real ecological management situation in the Hobq Desert and the availability of data, we aimed to reflect the ecological, economic, and social benefits of 14 indicators in order to evaluate the overall benefits of the Hobq model. The decision-making layer considered the comprehensive benefits, the middle layer considered the ecological, economic, and social benefits, and the program layer was a measure of the benefits of the three sub-indicators (Figure 2).

 Figure 2 Index system for comprehensively assessing the benefits of the Hobq model
3.1.2 Determining the evaluation index weights

According to the AHP theory, six invited experts in desertification management at all levels evaluated the relative importance of each element based on comparisons and by scoring from 1–9, where a judgment matrix was obtained as the relative importance based on a reciprocal scale for each index.

After obtaining each judgment matrix, consistency of the hierarchical sorting of single items as well as the overall ordering were checked. Consistency checking for hierarchical single item sorting was performed using the following formula:

 $CR = CI/RI$ (1)

where CR is the consistency ratio, CI is the consistency index, and RI is the average random consistency index. If CR <0.10, the judgment matrix has satisfactory consistency; otherwise, it is necessary to rebuild the judgment matrix. The overall hierarchical ordering also required consistency checking in a similar manner to hierarchical single item sorting.

Yaahp software was used to calculate the maximum eigenvalue of each judgment matrix and the corresponding normalization vector in order to test the consistency of the judgment matrix. The corresponding eigenvector normalization processing of the maximal characteristic root of the calculation is obtained, namely, the corresponding weight of each single level index is obtained, and the weight formula is as follows:

 $W = \overline {W_i} /\sum\limits_{i = 1}^n {\overline {W_i} } \;\;\;\;\left( {i = 1, \,\, 2, \,\, \ldots , \,\, n} \right)$ (2)

Among them, the weight value of the secondary index to the decision-making target is calculated by the weight of the single layer and the weight of the first index. The judgment matrix and its weight coefficients are presented in Tables 15.

Table 1 A-Bj judgment matrix and weight coefficients

Table 2 B1-Cj judgment matrix and weight coefficients

Table 3 B2-Cj judgment matrix and weight coefficients

Table 4 B3-Cj judgment matrix and weight coefficients

Table 5 Weights of elements in the project hierarchy to assess the general objective
3.2 Data sources

In Table 6, evaluation indicator data were derived from the Ordos statistical yearbook (1988–2013), statistical yearbook of Hangjin County (2006–2013), the glorious 50-year history of Hangjin County for the period of 1960–2010, and a report on the vegetation recovery system ecological assessment value in Hobq prepared by Elion resources group. According to the actual ecological management situation in the Hobq Desert, 14 indicators of ecological, economic, and social benefits were constructed and the comprehensive benefits of the Hobq model were evaluated from 1988 to 2013. The comprehensive evaluation index and original data regarding the Hobq model are presented in Table 6.

Table 6 Comprehensive benefits evaluation index for the Hobq model
4 Results 4.1 Calculation of evaluation results

In the comprehensive benefits evaluation, differences in evaluation indices affected overall evaluation results, so the indicators had to be dimensionless. Thus, the following ratio method was used for processing.

 $U = 1 - \frac{{0.9\left( {{V_{\rm {max}}} - V} \right)}}{{{V_{\rm {max}}} - {V_{\rm {max}}}}}$ (3)
 $U = 1 - \frac{{0.9\left( {{{V}} - {V_{\rm {min}}}} \right)}}{{{{{V}}_{\rm {max}}} - {{{V}}_{\rm {min}}}}}$ (4)

If the target value was larger, Formula (3) was selected; otherwise, Formula (4) was used instead. Standard values of the original data were calculated using the ratio method and the values are presented in Table 7.

The values of three sub-item benefits were obtained by multiplying the standard dimensionless value of the current year's index by its weight. The current year's benefits score values for the three sub-items were summed together to calculate the comprehensive benefits score value for that year. The benefits scores are presented in Table 8.

Referring to previous related studies, the comprehensive benefits value for the Hobq model can be divided into five grades (Huang, 2010), as presented in Table 9.

Table 7 Normalized values of the comprehensive benefits assessment indices

Table 8 Scores obtained in the benefits assessments

Table 9 Grading table for the desertification control benefits evaluation

Table 9 denotes the grading standards for the comprehensive benefit value of desertification management.

4.2 Ecological benefits evaluation

Based on dynamic changes (Figure 3), ecological benefits of the Hobq model increased gradually from the beginning of ecological management in 1988, before declining in a fluctuating manner in 2008 and 2009. The ecological benefits value increased from 0.1000 in 1988 to 0.9397 in 2013, which was 83.9% higher than that in 1988, with significant ecological benefits. The ecological benefits of the Hobq model in the passive sand control stage in 1988 had a value of 0.1, which increased to 0.2897 in the active sand control stage in 1998. Over a 10-year period, ecological benefits increased by 28.9%. Since 2006, ecological benefits increased by a larger amount relative to 1998, with an increase of 42.8%, but there were declines in 2008 and 2009. From 2010 to 2013, ecological benefits of the Hobq model continued to increase and reached a peak in 2013, i.e., an increase of 38.5% compared with 2010. Over the past 25 years, ecological benefits of the Hobq model are obvious. The number of sandy days decreased from 34 to 9 days in 1988–2013. Thus, the number of sandy days decreased greatly. The land desertification reduction rate was 4.7% in 1988 and up to 8.6% in 2013. From the beginning of ecological management in 1988, ecological benefits of the Hobq model increased continuously for 25 years, where desertification was effectively reversed and the ecological system tended to stabilize in the Hobq area.

 Figure 3 Comprehensive benefits assessment of the "Hobq model"
4.3 Economic benefits evaluation

Economic benefits of the Hobq model increased from 0.1000 in 1988 to 0.9397 in 2013, a large increase of 74%. After 1988, economic benefits increased gradually, but there were fluctuating declines in 2006–2007 and 2010–2011. The economic benefits value for the Hobq model was 0.1000 in the passive sand control stage in 1988, before increasing to 0.3614 in the active sand control stage in 1998, which was a smaller increase of 36%, but higher than the ecological benefits increase in the same period. From 2006 to 2007, economic benefits decreased slightly, before continuing to increase. In 2010, the economic benefits value was 0.8177, which was 101% higher than that in 2006. From 2011 to 2013, the economic benefits value continued to increase and reached a maximum of 0.8407 in 2013, i.e., an increase of 19.4% compared with 2011. Thus, from 1988 to 2013, economic benefits of the Hobq model were obvious. The per capita animal husbandry output value increased from 258 to 4,100 yuan during 1988–2013. The per capita forestry output value increased from 42.6 to 696.8 yuan during 1988–2013, while the per capita tourism output also increased greatly. The annual per capita net income of 523.5 yuan in 1988 increased to 22,879 yuan in 2013, i.e., about 43 times. Thus, the individual income increased significantly and economic benefits were apparent.

4.4 Social benefits evaluation

The social benefits value of the Hobq model increased from 0.1000 in 1988 to 1.0000 in 2013, i.e., a 90% increase, which was higher than increases in ecological and economic benefits over the same period. After 1988, the social benefits value increased steadily, but there were fluctuating declines in 2010–2011. From 1988 to 1998, social benefits changed slightly, with an increase of 25.0%. From 2006 to 2009, benefits increased continuously from 0.6043 in 2006 to 0.8213 in 2013, i.e., a 35.9% increase, which was higher than the increase in social benefits in 1988–1998. From 2011 to 2013, social benefits increased steadily reaching a maximum value of 1.00 in 2013, and this value was higher than that of ecological and economic benefits. Over the past 25 years, social benefits of the Hobq model increased gradually. The Engel coefficient decreased from 63.7% in 1988 to 26.7% in 2013. The school enrolment rate of children was only 79.0% in 1988, but it increased to 98.3% in 2013, so the education level improved greatly. Due to improved living standards of local farmers and herdsmen, the level of ecological awareness and protection of the environment also improved. The sand control recognition rate increased from 67.8% to 91.2% in 1988–2013. In summary, after desertification control for more than 20 years, the ecological environment improved greatly in the Hobq Desert, where regional economic development has developed rapidly and the social benefits are quite remarkable.

4.5 Comprehensive benefits evaluation

Due to the influence of the ecological benefits weighting, change in the comprehensive benefits value for the Hobq model was similar to that of the ecological benefits value. As presented in Figure 3, comprehensive benefits tended to increase gradually, but they decreased in 2008–2009. The comprehensive benefits value increased from 0.1000 in 1988 to 0.9458 in 2013, which was 84.5% higher than that in 1988 and this increase was large, thereby indicating that comprehensive benefits are very significant. From 1998 to 2008, comprehensive benefits increased steadily, but the value decreased slightly from 2008 to 2009. From 2009 to 2013, the value continued to increase, reaching a peak of 0.9458 in 2013. Table 9 shows that in the early stage of Hobq Desert management in 1988, the comprehensive benefits value for the Hobq model was 0.1, and the management was poor, the ecological and economic system was very unstable, desertification was severe, and living standards and the sand control recognition rate were low. In 1998, the comprehensive benefits value was 0.3155 in the active sand control stage and the management was poor, but comprehensive benefits improved by 21%. From 2006 to 2007, the value ranged from 0.4 to 0.6, and the management was moderate. Land desertification was managed effectively in the Hobq Desert and the local people's understanding of desertification was strengthened. From 2008 to 2011, the comprehensive benefits value for the Hobq model ranged from 0.6–0.8, the management was good, the effects of desertification control were obvious, and incomes of peasants and herdsmen increased, so people were generally more satisfied with their lives and the sand control work. From 2012 to 2013, the comprehensive benefits value ranged from 0.8–1.0 and the management was excellent. The ecological management effect of desertification was remarkable. The annual per capita net income of local farmers and herdsmen was high in the same area. People had a strong recognition of sand control and they participated actively in the ecological management of the Hobq Desert. After 25 years of desertification ecological management, Hobq has achieved remarkable ecological, economic, and social benefits, and thus the Hobq model is a good example of desertification control, thereby providing an important reference for economic and social sustainable development in Hobq and other areas.

In the early stage of Hobq Desert management in 1988, ecological, economic, and social benefits were low. During 25 years of ecological control, these three benefits increased gradually, but declined in certain periods. In particular, ecological benefits decreased from 2008 to 2009. Planting and afforestation in Hangjin County during this period caused excessive consumption of groundwater resources and destroyed the ecological environment of Hobq Desert to some extent. The economic benefits value decreased slightly from 2010 to 2011. Due to natural disasters in Hangjin County over several years, and flooding of Yellow River, causing agricultural and animal husbandry losses, incomes decreased which led to an economic downturn. Social benefits also declined mainly due to natural disasters in Hobq, where incomes of farmers and herdsmen decreased, and this affected normal production and their lives. After 25 years of ecological management, ecological functions such as windbreaks and sand fixation, water conservation, soil stabilization, air purification, and biodiversity conservation were strengthened. The land area affected by desertification and the annual sand days decreased gradually, and the ecological environment has been improved effectively, thereby maintaining the ecological security of the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei region. Yan (Yan, 2010) stated that the Beijing and Tianjin sandstorm source project has obtained good ecological benefits, but maintaining ecological stability is the most important, which indicates that after long-term ecological management, ecological benefits can reach a best state scenario and reverse desertification. During the past 25 years, the Hobq region has implemented ecological protection policies to achieve desertification control and the Three North Shelterbelt. However, economic benefits were not affected by these policies, and they have increased remarkably each year. This suggests that desert management and the development of ecological economy of the Hobq model is a win-win situation, which has improved the region's economic and social sustainable development. The comprehensive benefits of water resources utilization in Minqin oasis was analyzed and indicated that although the ecological protection policies in Minqin have led to the implementation of many measures, the economic benefits have still maintained a relatively high rate of growth (Wei et al., 2015), thereby indicating that ecological and economic benefits have reached a win-win situation, which is consistent with the results of the present study. Deng (Deng, 2007) evaluated the comprehensive benefits of the implementation of the Beijing–Tianjin sandstorm source control project in Hebei Province, and showed that the comprehensive benefits increased each year. The ecological, economic, and social benefits also increased each year, which is consistent with the results of the present study. Our results also show that AHP is an effective method for performing benefits evaluation.

5 Conclusion

Based on the Hobq model, we quantitatively evaluated the comprehensive benefits of the Hobq model from 1988 to 2013. Our conclusions are as follows.

(1) Ecological benefits of the Hobq model increased gradually from the beginning of ecological management in 1988, but there were fluctuating declines in 2008 and 2009. The ecological benefits value increased from 0.1000 in 1988 to 0.9397 in 2013, which was 83.9% higher than that in 1988. Land desertification was effectively reversed and the ecosystem stabilized, with remarkable ecological benefits.

(2) From 1988 to 2013, economic benefits increased gradually, but there were fluctuating declines in 2006–2007 and 2010–2011. The economic benefits value of the Hobq model increased from 0.1000 in 1988 to 0.9397 in 2013, i.e., a large increase of 74%. The Hobq model has advocated ecological management and ecological economic development jointly to promote sustainable economic and social development in the region, and economic benefits of the Hobq model have been remarkable.

(3) From 1988 to 2013, social benefits increased steadily, but there were fluctuating declines in 2010–2011. The social benefits value of the Hobq model increased from 0.1000 in 1988 to 1.0000 in 2013, i.e., an increase of 90%, which was higher than increases in ecological and economic benefits in the same period. The ecological environment has been improved greatly, living standards have been enhanced, and the awareness of sand control has generally increased, and the social benefits are very significant.

(4) Comprehensive benefits increased gradually, although they decreased in 2008–2009. In the early stage of Hobq Desert management in 1988, the comprehensive benefits value was 0.1, but management was poor, the ecological and economic systems were highly unstable, and desertification was severe. During 25 years of ecological management, comprehensive benefits increased greatly reaching a maximum in 2013. Desertification control has yielded remarkable ecological, economic, and social benefits.

By comparing three types of benefits in the same period, we found that social and ecological benefits of the Hobq model were higher than economic benefits. In the future, effective management of the Hobq Desert should be continued to improve people lives as well as economic benefits in order to achieve coordinated and sustainable development. In this study, AHP was used to determine the evaluation index weights, which were greatly influenced by subjective factors. Due to the availability of data, part of the evaluation index for the eco-economic system was not sufficiently comprehensive to select the indicators, which is a problem that should be addressed in future research.

This study attempted to evaluate comprehensive benefits of the Hobq model. The follow-up study should further consolidate the ecological and socio-economic data related to the Hobq Desert. Thus, in this study, based on a social ecosystem framework, we built a comprehensive evaluation index system to evaluate comprehensive benefits of the social ecosystem in the Hobq model.

Acknowledgments:

This research was partially supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant No. 2016YFC0500909) and the National Science and Technology Support Program of China (Grant No. 2015BAC06B01).

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