The Loess Plateau covers an area of some 640,000 km² in the upper and middle parts of China’s Yellow River. Loess is the name for the silty soil that has been deposited by wind storms on the plateau over the ages. Loess is a highly erosion-prone soil that is susceptible to the forces of wind and water. The Loess Plateau and its dusty soil cover almost all of Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces and parts of others.

Hundreds of years of deforestation and over-grazing, exacerbated by China’s population increase, has resulted in degenerated ecosystems and poor local economies.