Dust storms are natural phenomena, bringing both positive and negative effects for the natural environment. However, dust storms are increasingly becoming an uncontrollable natural disaster, exacerbating desertification, creating atmospheric pollution, destroying ecosystems, negatively impacting basic infrastructure, and causing not just huge economic losses, but also the loss of human life.
Dust storms are a product of the interaction between atmospheric and ground surface factors. Ground surface ecosystems are directly affected by anthropologic activities, such as production, manufacturing, deforestation, excessive farming and animal grazing, as well as unreasonable use of water resources. The resulting desertification and soil erosion can consequently impact the development of dust storms. Presently, the ability to control the atmosphere is limited, and the key to reducing the intensity and frequency of dust storms exists in protecting and improving ground surface ecosystems.
The causes of dust storms are diverse, including desertification and the drying up of lakes and rivers. Currently, the focus on preventing dust storms by preventing desertification has achieved great progress through measures such as controlling blown sand movement, reverting cultivated land to forestry and grassland, and the enactment of laws such as the “Law of Land Administration,” “Soil and Water Conservation Law,” and “Law on the Prevention and Control of Desertification.” However, because of the various causes and origins of dust storms, the prevention and remediation of dust storms is still limited. Recent research provides compelling evidence of a saline alkaline dust storm, and more research will be required to examine the extent of its chemical impact as well as methods for its prevention and control. Additionally, most of the success achieved in preventing and remediating dust storms resulting from desertification are only temporary solutions and do not solve the root of the problem.
Furthermore, China’s dust storms mainly originate in the underdeveloped and economically disadvantaged western regions. Improper use of local resources is exacerbating the problems of desertification and dust storms. A case study of a 2010 saltwater agricultural experiment conducted in Gansu province shows promise to improve not just the local economy, but also prevent dust storms and protect the area’s meager freshwater resources. However, several obstacles will need to be overcome for this experiment to become a reality.
Finally, the prevention and control of China’s dust storms will be more effective through examining other countries’ experiences with dust storms, improvement of related laws and systems, and increasing ecological protection, education, and research.