The Chinese government introduced six ecological restoration programs to improve its natural environment. Although these programs have proven successful in improving local environmental conditions, some studies have questioned their effectiveness when regions suffer from extreme weather conditions. Using the Grain for Green Program (GGP) region as a study area, we estimated vegetation activities in the GGP region from 2000 to 2010 to clarify the trends in vegetation growth and their driving forces. The results showed that: (1) vegetation activities improved in the GGP region during 2000-2010, with 58.94% of the area showing an increased trend in the NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index); (2) 26.33% of the increased vegetation was caused by human interference, and 11.61% by climate variation, human activity was the dominant cause, and resulted in 54.68% of the degradation compared to 4.74% from climate change; and, (3) the contribution of different land use types to the NDVI interannual variations showed that high contribution regions were focused in the arid and semiarid areas, where the vegetation growth is associated with variations in recipitation and temperature. However, conversions between farmland and grassland or forest had a significant effect on the change in the NDVI trend. Therefore, although climate conditions can affect vegetation growth, human activities are more important in vegetation changes, and appropriate human activities would contribute to its continual improvement. Hence, we recommend establishing an assessment and scientific management mechanism for eco-risks in the design and management of ecosystem restoration programs.
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