Next Article in Journal
Evaluating Public Attitudes and Farmers’ Beliefs towards Climate Change Adaptation: Awareness, Perception, and Populism at European Level
Previous Article in Journal
Water Tourism: A New Strategy for the Sustainable Management of Water-Based Ecosystems and Landscapes in Extremadura (Spain)
Previous Article in Special Issue
Valuing Environmental Benefit Streams in the Dryland Ecosystems of Sub-Saharan Africa
Article Menu

Export Article

Open AccessArticle

Re-Placing the Desert in the Conservation Landscape: Charisma and Absence in the Gobi Desert

School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
Received: 1 December 2018 / Revised: 25 December 2018 / Accepted: 28 December 2018 / Published: 29 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Arid Land Systems: Sciences and Societies)
Full-Text   |   PDF [3623 KB, uploaded 2 January 2019]   |  


Across the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia, millions of newly planted trees struggle to survive amid adverse ecological conditions. They were planted by a wide variety of actors in an attempt to protect, restore, or modify the local environment, despite evidence of their negative consequences upon local ecosystems. This paper investigates how these afforestation projects both challenge and affirm recent theoretical work on conservation, while also providing key insights into the decision-making framework of land management across the world’s third largest desert region. This analysis, supported by evidence from corporate practice, government policy, and participant observation, builds primarily on the work of Jamie Lorimer and other authors who identify the charisma of certain species as a primary driver of contemporary conservation. But the case of afforestation in the Gobi is inadequately explained by a desire to protect individual species; rather, I show how the charisma at the level of the landscape influences conservation practice. I extend this analysis to suggest that the management of deserts worldwide may be mediated by their perception as absent or empty spaces, thus explaining projects like afforestation which seem to re-place rather than conserve. Using the framework of absence and presence to better understand land use and environmental governance could have implications extending well beyond the Gobi Desert. View Full-Text
Keywords: absence; afforestation; charisma; China; conservation; desertification; Gobi; Mongolia absence; afforestation; charisma; China; conservation; desertification; Gobi; Mongolia

Figure 1

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Lezak, S. Re-Placing the Desert in the Conservation Landscape: Charisma and Absence in the Gobi Desert. Land 2019, 8, 3.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Land EISSN 2073-445X Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top