EcoAlert –China Urges World’s Scientists to Build a Digital Silk Road to Protect Fragile Ecosystems of Asia, Europe and Africa




Chinese scientist Guo Huadong on Tuesday published an article on the website of the academic journal, Nature, calling on global scientists to build a digital Silk Road using big data. The ancient Silk Road trade routes connecting Asia, Europe and Africa lay behind the development of many great civilizations. Today, solar panels and smartphones have replaced silk, and trains and aeroplanes have superseded camels. But the Silk Road spirit of peace, mutual benefit and learning has been revived in an ambitious plan to bridge East and West, launched in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping.


Guo, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said in the article that sharing big data from satellite imagery and other earth observations in the regions covered by China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative was key to sustainability.



The Belt and Road region is home to more than 65% of the world’s population. It includes 18 cities that have populations of greater than 10 million, such as Beijing, Cairo, Moscow, Manila and Istanbul. The image below shows Musa Bay in Iran which faces ecological damage from shipping.



Environments are diverse and fragile. Conditions range from the snow, ice and permafrost of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau to the forests and steppes of Russia and the deserts of Mongolia. Coasts and seas are threatened by rising sea levels, overfishing and pollution. Access to water is a big problem across central Asia. For example, the volume of water in the Aral Sea has shrunk by around 90% in the past 50 years, mainly because the sea and its rivers have been tapped for irrigation.

World Heritage Sites designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are endangered by construction, logging, overexploitation and climate change. These include Sumatra’s tropical rainforests; Uzbekistan’s historic centre of Shakhrisyabz; and the world’s second-largest raised coral atoll, in the Solomon Islands at the eastern end of Rennell Island. The image below shows the development encroaching on the Great Pyramids at Gaza.



Guo underscored that the environments are diverse and fragile with various natural hazards in the regions. He believes a combination of accurate, reliable and timely scientific observations of the state of terrestrial and marine ecosystems is essential — from space, the air and on the ground.

Guo has been the chairman of the Digital Belt and Road Program which was initiated in 2016 by Chinese scientists in cooperation with experts from 19 countries and seven international organizations. The aim of the Digital Belt and Road Program is to improve environmental monitoring, promote data sharing and support policymaking, Guo said.

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Image credits ESA

The Daily Galaxy via Xinhuanet and Nature   



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