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Remote Sens. 2018, 10(3), 358;

Impacts of Climate Change on Tibetan Lakes: Patterns and Processes

Key Laboratory of Wetland Ecology and Environment, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130102, China
Department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AB, UK
College of Earth Sciences, Jilin University, Changchun 130021, China
UCL Department of Geography, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Department of Earth Sciences, Indiana University—Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA
School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
Global School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
Center for Human-Environment System Sustainability (CHESS), State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology (ESPRE), Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 December 2017 / Revised: 14 February 2018 / Accepted: 21 February 2018 / Published: 26 February 2018
PDF [11263 KB, uploaded 26 February 2018]


High-altitude inland-drainage lakes on the Tibetan Plateau (TP), the earth’s third pole, are very sensitive to climate change. Tibetan lakes are important natural resources with important religious, historical, and cultural significance. However, the spatial patterns and processes controlling the impacts of climate and associated changes on Tibetan lakes are largely unknown. This study used long time series and multi-temporal Landsat imagery to map the patterns of Tibetan lakes and glaciers in 1977, 1990, 2000, and 2014, and further to assess the spatiotemporal changes of lakes and glaciers in 17 TP watersheds between 1977 and 2014. Spatially variable changes in lake and glacier area as well as climatic factors were analyzed. We identified four modes of lake change in response to climate and associated changes. Lake expansion was predominantly attributed to increased precipitation and glacier melting, whereas lake shrinkage was a main consequence of a drier climate or permafrost degradation. These findings shed new light on the impacts of recent environmental changes on Tibetan lakes. They suggest that protecting these high-altitude lakes in the face of further environmental change will require spatially variable policies and management measures. View Full-Text
Keywords: lake; glacier retreat; permafrost degradation; climate change; Tibetan Plateau lake; glacier retreat; permafrost degradation; climate change; Tibetan Plateau

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Mao, D.; Wang, Z.; Yang, H.; Li, H.; Thompson, J.R.; Li, L.; Song, K.; Chen, B.; Gao, H.; Wu, J. Impacts of Climate Change on Tibetan Lakes: Patterns and Processes. Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 358.

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