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Effects of agriculture, climate, and policy on NDVI change in a semi-arid river basin of the Chinese Loess Plateau

Zheng, Kai, Ye, Jian-Sheng, Jin, Bao-Cheng, Zhang, Fen, Wei, Jian-Zhou, Li, Feng-Min
Arid land research and management 2019 v.33 no.3 pp. 321-338
Landsat, basins, climate change, climatic factors, cropland, ecosystem management, forests, grasslands, issues and policy, land use change, normalized difference vegetation index, spatial variation, temporal variation, vegetation cover, watersheds, China
In 1999, the Grain for Green Project was implemented by the Chinese government. Since then, the vegetation of Zuli River Basin, a semi-arid river basin of the Chinese Loess Plateau, has been greatly changed. Clearly understanding the impact of natural and artificial factors on vegetation change is important for policy making and ecosystem management. In this study, spatio-temporal variations in vegetation cover in Chinese Zuli River Basin during 1999–2016 were investigated using Landsat normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) data. Analyses of several indicators, including changes in NDVI in different slopes and land use changes and the relationships between climatic factors and NDVI change, were presented to quantitatively evaluate the effects of agriculture, climate, and policy on NDVI change. The NDVI in the Zuli River Basin increased during the study period, and the main contributors to this change were forest in 1999–2011, cropland, abandoned farmland, and grassland in 2009–2016, and land with slopes ≤ 15°. Land with slope > 15°, where the “Project” was implemented, slightly contributed to the increase in regional NDVI. In 1999–2011, the project (−98.16%) combined with climate change (−68.18%) showed negative effects on the increase in NDVI in the Zuli River Basin, but agriculture (22.28%) played a positive role in increasing this index. In 2009–2016 and 1999–2016, the project (38.45% and 35.25%, respectively), the project combined with climate change (49.83% and 46.30%, respectively), agriculture (18.61% and 23.30%, respectively), promoted increases in NDVI in the basin.