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Remote sensing and evaluation of the wetland ecological degradation process of the Zoige Plateau Wetland in China

Shen, Ge, Yang, Xiuchun, Jin, Yunxiang, Xu, Bin, Zhou, Qingbo
Ecological indicators 2019 v.104 pp. 48-58
aboveground biomass, altitude, biomass production, climate change, ecological balance, ecosystems, environmental indicators, fractal dimensions, habitat fragmentation, landscapes, models, monitoring, remote sensing, swamps, vegetation, China
The Zoige Plateau Wetland is the largest high-altitude swamp wetland in China. It plays a key role in ecological balance and the global change. Climate change and improper utilization have consequently resulted in decreased wetland area, disrupted ecosystem structure, and wetland function degradation and function loss. The Zoige Plateau Wetland thus faces severe ecological degradation problems. In this study, selecting the Zoige Plateau Wetland as the study area, remote sensing was used to track the ecological degradation process during 2000–2015 from three aspects (area degradation, structure degradation and function degradation) and at three administrative levels (study area, county and key township). To assess the wetland degradation quantitatively, an analytic hierarchy process (AHP) was used to construct a composite wetland degradation index based on five indicators: wetland area change rate, landscape fractal dimension, landscape fragmentation, vegetation biomass and vegetation coverage. The results showed the following. (1) In terms of area change rate, the total wetland area had continuously decreased during 2000–2015 compared to that in the 1990s, and 2010 was the most significant. The frequency of negative change in the wetland area reached 87.5% in all four counties and across four time periods (2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015), and 85% at the township level. At the spatial scale, Hongyuan County had the smallest wetland area change rate. (2) In terms of structure change, the variations in landscape fractal dimension and landscape fragmentation generally exhibited similar trends at different levels. Specifically, the ecosystem structure was seriously affected in 2000, then gradually recovered in 2005 and 2010, and was again under aggravated interference in 2015. (3) In terms of function change, the above-ground biomass yield in the northeastern region was higher than that in the southern region. A low value was detected in 2000, and then the value increased and remained essentially the same in 2005 and 2010. However, the value decreased in 2015, indicating deteriorated vegetation condition. The vegetation coverage in the study area remained steady, without deterioration in a particular year. (4) In terms of the whole study area, the wetland degradation grades in the four periods were mild (2000), moderate (2005), mild (2010) and mild (2015). In brief, the wetland degradation was the most severe in 2005. Over the 2000–2015 period, the spatial degradation pattern of the Zoige Plateau Wetland progressed from the northeast to the southwest. The model built in this study could be widely applicable. And this study has also some reference value for monitoring and management of wetland degradation by remote sensing.