Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2016, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (5): 432-440.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2016.00432

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Land use and land cover change and its driving forces in Maqu County, China in the past 25 years

JunFeng Lu1, ZhiBao Dong1, GuangYin Hu1, WenJin Li2, WanYin Luo1, MingLiang Tan1   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agroecosystems, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • Received:2016-04-14 Revised:2016-06-16 Published:2018-11-23
  • Contact: JunFeng Lu, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences. No. 320, West Donggang Road, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China. Tel:+86-931-4967493;
  • Supported by:
    We gratefully acknowledge the funding received from the Natural Science Foundation of China (41301003, 41371026, and 31470480) and the Technology of the People's Republic of China (No. 2013CB956000).

Abstract: Maqu County is located in the northeast Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, and it is the main watershed for the Yellow River. The ecosystem there is extremely vulnerable and sensitive to climate change and human activities, which have caused significant deterioration of the eco-environment in this region. In order to restore the ecological environment, a government project to restore the grazing areas to grassland was implemented in Maqu County in early 2004. This study evaluates the effects of that restoration project on land use and land cover change (LUCC), and explores the driving forces of LUCC in Maqu County. In the study we used Landsat images obtained in 1989, 2004, 2009, and 2014 to establish databases of land use and land cover. Then we derived LUCC information by overlaying these layers using GIS software. Finally, we analyzed the main forces responsible for LUCC. The results showed that forests, high-coverage grasslands, and marshes experienced the most significant decreases during 1989-2004, by 882.8 ha, 35,250.4 ha, and 2,753.4 ha, respectively. However, moderate- and low-coverage grasslands and sand lands showed the opposite trend, increasing by 12,529.7 ha, 25,491.0 ha, and 577.5 ha, respectively. LUCC in 2004-2009 showed that ecological degradation slowed compared with 1989-2004. During 2009-2014, high- and moderate-coverage grasslands increased obviously, but low-coverage grasslands, marshes, unused lands, sand lands, and water areas showed the opposite trend. These results suggested that the degradation of the eco-environment was obvious before 2009, showing a decrease in the forests, grasslands, and water areas, and an increase in unused lands. The ecological degradation was reversed after 2009, as was mainly evidenced by increases in high- and moderate-coverage grasslands, and the shrinkage rate of marshes decreased obviously. These results showed that the project of restoring grazing lands to grassland had a positive effect on the LUCC. Other major factors that influence the LUCC include increasing temperature, variation in the seasonal frozen soil environment, seasonal overgrazing, and pest and rodent damage.

Key words: LUCC, driving forces, Maqu County, source region of the Yellow River

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