Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2019, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (6): 448-460.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2019.00448.

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Vegetation change and its response to drought in Inner Mongolia of northern China from 1998 to 2013

ShuLin Liu(),Tao Wang,WenPing Kang,ZiChen Guo,XueQin Zhang   

  1. Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Northwest Institute of Eco-environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • Received:2019-06-18 Accepted:2019-10-08 Online:2019-12-31 Published:2020-01-07
  • Contact: ShuLin Liu


Vegetation plays a significant role in global terrestrial ecosystems and in combating desertification. We analyzed vegetation change in Inner Mongolia of northern China using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from 1998 to 2013, which is an important composite of Chinese National Ecological Security Shelter. The correlation between vegetation growth and drought quantified using the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) was also explored. Results show that vegetation in most of the study area has been rehabilitated to various degrees, especially in regions such as most of the Horqin Sandy Land, eastern Ordos Plateau, Hetao Plain, as well as the middle-northern Da Hinggan Ling Mountains. Vegetation improvement in spring was significant in most of the study area. Vegetation degradation was centrally distributed in Xilingol grassland close to the Sino-Mongolia border and abandoned croplands in Ulanqab Meng. Vegetation change trends and seasonal differences varied among different vegetation types. The biggest vegetation variation in the growing season was the belt-like distribution along those grasslands close to the precipitation isoline of 200 mm and the Sino-Mongolia border, but also variation in summer and autumn exist in obvious spatial differences between grasslands and forests. Drought largely influenced vegetation change of Inner Mongolia at 6-month scale or 12-month scale, except for forests of eastern Hunlun Buir Meng and deserts or gobi deserts of western Alxa Meng. Moreover, drought in the previous winter and early spring seasons had a lag effect on growing-season vegetation. Desert grassland was the most easily affected by drought in the study area. Anthropogenic activities have made great progress in improving local vegetation under the lasting drought background.

Key words: vegetation change, drought, SPOT NDVI, SPEI, Inner Mongolia

Figure 1

The location and elevation of the study area (Precipitation isoline data according to Climate Atlas of the People's Republic of China, Beijing: China Meteorological Press, 2002)"

Figure 2

Spatial patterns of vegetation types and NDVI_gs in the study area. (needle-leaved forest (NDF), deciduous broad-leaved forest (DBF), deciduous sparse forest (DSF), shrub-land (SHR), marsh (MAR), meadow grassland (MGR), typical grassland (TGR), desert grassland (DGR), grassy shrub desert (GSD), dwarf half-tree desert (HTD), shrub desert (SHD), cropland (CRP), other vegetation types or non-vegetated areas (OTH))"

Figure 3

Vegetation change trend in the study area. (a, vegetation growth trend in the growing season (NDVI_gs) obtained with the Linear regression analysis method; b, slope of NDVI_gs at the significance level (p <0.05); c, the Sen+Mann-Kendall analysis method at the significance level (p <0.05); d, slope of NDVI_sp at the significance level (p <0.05); e, slope of NDVI_su at the significance level (p <0.05); f, slope of NDVI_au at the significance level (p <0.05))"

Figure 4

Change trends of different vegetation types in different growing periods"

Figure 5

Vegetation variation of different seasons in the growing seasons from 1998 to 2013. (a, growing season, CV of NDVI_gs; b, spring, CV of NDVI_sp; c, summer, CV of NDVI_su; d, autumn, CV of NDVI_au)"

Figure 6

Responses of monthly NDVI_mean to SPEI_6m from 1997 to 2013in different subareas. (NDVI_mean is for monthly average NDVI in a subarea during the growing season; SPEI_6m is for SPEI at 6-month time scales. The north-east subarea (a), the south-east subarea (b) and the middle-west subarea (c))"

Figure 7

The correlation coefficients between SPEIs and iNDVI_gs at two different time scales. (the correlation coefficients (Pearson coefficient, r) between iNDVI_gs and SPEI_OCT6 (a) and SPEI_OCT12 (b), respectively. Areas with no significant correlations are depicted in white)"

Figure 8

The proportions of areas with statistical correlations between NDVI_gs of different vegetation types and SPEI_OCT6 (a) and SPEI_OCT12 (b)"

Figure 9

Vegetation improvement in the middle-eastern Otindag sandy land during the last decade. (a, TM composite images of band4, 3, 2on July 10, 2000; b, slope of NDVI_gs from 1998 to 2013 (p <0.05); c, severe desertification stage (photo taken on May 12th, 2004); d, vegetation restoration stage under artificial plantation (photo taken on August 18, 2015 at the same site, located in the red rectangle in Figure 9b)"

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