Climate change and human activities are important factors driving changes in wetland ecosystems. It is therefore crucial to quantitatively characterize the relative importance of these stressors in wetlands. Previous such analyses have generally not distinguished between wetland types, or have focused on individual wetland types. In this study, three representative wetland areas of the upper, middle and lower reaches of the Heilongjiang River Basin (HRB) were selected as the study area. An object-based classification was used with Landsat TM data to extract the spatial distribution of wetland in 1990, 2000 and 2010. We then quantified the relative importance of climate change and human activities on the wetlands by using the R package “relaimpo” package. The results indicated that: (1) the effects of human activities on wetland changes were greater (contribution rate of 63.57%) than climate change in the HRB. Specifically, there were differences in the relative importance of climate change and human activities for wetlands in different regions. Wetlands of the upper reaches were more affected by climate change, while wetlands in the middle and lower reaches were more affected by human activities; (2) climate change had a greater impact (contribution rate of 65.72%) on low intensity wetland loss, while human activities had a greater impact on moderate and severe intensity wetland loss, with respective contribution rates of 57.22% and 70.35%; (3) climate change had a larger effect on the shrub and forested wetland changes, with respective contribution rates of 58.33% and 52.58%. However, human activities had a larger effect on herbaceous wetland changes, with a contribution rate of 72.28%. Our study provides a useful framework for wetland assessment and management, and could be a useful tool for developing wetland utilization and protection approaches, particularly in sensitive environments in mid- and high-latitude areas.
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