The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Grassland dynamics in response to climate change and human activities in Inner Mongolia, China between 1985 and 2009

S. J. Mu A , Y. Z. Chen A , J. L. Li A D , W. M. Ju B , I. O. A. Odeh C and X. L. Zou C

A School of Life Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, People’s Republic of China.

B International Institute of Earth System Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, People’s Republic of China.

C Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: jianlongli@gmail.com

The Rangeland Journal 35(3) 315-329 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ12042
Submitted: 8 July 2012  Accepted: 13 May 2013   Published: 22 July 2013

Abstract

China’s grassland has been undergoing rapid changes in the recent past owing to increased climate variability and a shift in grassland management strategy driven by a series of ecological restoration projects. This study investigated the spatio-temporal dynamics of Inner Mongolia grassland, the main grassland region in China and part of the Eurasia Steppe, to detect the interactive nature of climate, ecosystems and society. Land-use and landscape patterns for the period from 1985 to 2009 were analysed based on TM- and MODIS-derived land-use data. Net Primary Productivity (NPP) estimated by using the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach model was used to assess the growth status of grassland. Furthermore, the factors related to the dynamics of grassland were analysed from the perspectives of two driving factors, climate change and human activities. The results indicated that higher temperatures and lower precipitation may generally have contributed to grassland desertification, particularly in arid regions. During the period from 1985 to 2000, a higher human population and an increase in livestock numbers were the major driving forces responsible for the consistent decrease in NPP and a relatively fragmented landscape. From 2000 to 2009, the implementation of effective ecological restoration projects has arrested the grassland deterioration in some ecologically fragile regions. However, a rapid growth of livestock numbers has sparked new degradation onnon-degraded or lightly degraded grassland, which was initially neglected by these projects. In spite of some achievement in grassland restoration, China should take further steps to develop sustainable management practices for climate adaptation and economic development to bring lasting benefits.

Additional keywords: climate change, Grain to Green Project, Grazing Withdraw Project, livestock numbers, Inner Mongolia, net primary productivity.


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