Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Spatial-temporal dynamics of desert vegetation and its responses to climatic variations over the last three decades: a case study of Hexi region in Northwest China


Analysis of spatial-temporal variations of desert vegetation under the background of climate changes can provide references for ecological restoration in arid and semi-arid areas. In this study, we used the Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) NDVI data from 1982 to 2006 and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) NDVI data from 2000 to 2013 to reveal the dynamics of desert vegetation in Hexi region of Northwest China over the past three decades. We also used the annual temperature and precipitation data acquired from the Chinese meteorological stations to analyze the response of desert vegetation to climatic variations. The average value of NDVImax (the maximum NDVI during the growing season) for desert vegetation in Hexi region increased at the rate of 0.65×10–3/a (P<0.05) from 1982 to 2013, and the significant increases of NDVImax mainly appeared in the typical desert vegetation areas. Vegetation was significantly improved in the lower reaches of Shule and Shiyang river basins, and the weighted mean center of desert vegetation mainly shifted toward the lower reaches of the two basins. Almost 95.32% of the total desert vegetation area showed positive correlation between NDVImax and annual precipitation, indicating that precipitation is the key factor for desert vegetation growth in the entire study area. Moreover, the areas with non-significant positive correlation between NDVImax and annual precipitation mainly located in the lower reaches of Shiyang and Shule river basins, this may be due to human activities. Only 7.64% of the desert vegetation showed significant positive correlation between NDVImax and annual precipitation in the Shule River Basin (an extremely arid area), indicating that precipitation is not the most important factor for vegetation growth in this basin, and further studies are needed to investigate the mechanism for this phenomenon.

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