By Nicolette Sarmiento
China’s rapid rise to global industrial superpower has come with significant pollution costs. In response, China has set a goal to rehabilitate 90 percent of its polluted industrial areas and farmland by 2020, and two UC Davis research centers aim to help. The UC Davis Road Ecology Center (REC) and the China Center for Energy and Transportation (C-CET) at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies have partnered with the Shaanxi Provincial Land Engineering Construction Group Co., Ltd. to create the China-U.S. Land Ecology Center.
“The establishment of the Land Ecology Center will build a win-win and innovative exchange platform for China and U.S. land engineering and technology,” China’s Vice Consulate General, Fanhua Deng, said.
As the first project of its kind since California joined China’s 2013 One Belt One Road global initiative, the Land Ecology Center—aptly located in UC Davis’ zero-net energy community, West Village—aims to share research practices and policies from UC Davis and China and to support the development of the first college of land engineering at China’s Chang’an University.
UC Davis Associate Vice Provost of Global Affairs Dr. Fadi Fathallah added that the center’s planned activities align very well with several UC Davis initiatives, including “Global Education for All” and “Big Ideas,” which calls on the academic community to submit proposals for ideas that represent forward-thinking projects that will keep UC Davis at the forefront of academia.
The China-U.S. Land Ecology Center will be led by UC Davis researchers Fraser Shilling, co-director of the REC, and Yunshi Wang, director of C-CET. These UC Davis research groups offer expertise in land protection and agriculture, groundbreaking work on clean energy policies, and technical staff fluent in Chinese. C-CET Program Manager Fei Meng will coordinate affiliated faculty and graduate students who will help with specific studies on land restoration.
“The China-U.S. Land Ecology Center represents the marriage of a world-class university and a pioneering company from China in pursuit of best practices in natural resource preservation and stewardship,” Wang said.
The Shaanxi Construction Group focuses on solving cropland degradation and supporting fast, sustainable economic and social development of the province. It has pledged unrestricted support of $500,000 over three years for the center and additional funding for specific research projects thereafter.
UC Davis Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Cameron Carter described UC Davis as the perfect partner for the Shaanxi Group. “This new [Land Ecology Center] will leverage existing expertise and collaborations between China and UC Davis and help this group make progress towards the very important goal of positively impacting its environment— through its extensive efforts to successfully implement the rehabilitation of industrial and agricultural land through applied ecological engineering.”
The REC is the only center in the world dedicated to researching the effects of roads on natural resources and wildlife habitat. REC researchers conduct modeling, field analysis of wildlife movement and wildlife-vehicle collisions, provide online informatics to support volunteer scientists, and study air and noise pollution and the impacts of roadways on water quality. The C-CET is the only center of its kind in North America and is the leading international center for the study of transportation energy activities in China.