As a result of the unique geographical characteristics, pastoral lifestyle, and economic conditions in Mongolia, its fragile natural ecosystems are highly sensitive to climate change and human activities. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was employed in this study as an indicator of the growth status of vegetation. The Sen’s slope, Mann–Kendall test, and geographical detector modelling methods were used to assess the spatial and temporal changes of the NDVI in response to variations in natural conditions and human activities in Mongolia from 1982 to 2015. The corresponding individual and interactive driving forces, and the optimal range for the maximum NDVI value of vegetation distribution were also quantified. The area in which vegetation was degraded was roughly equal to the area of increase, but different vegetation types behaved differently. The desert steppe and the Gobi Desert both in arid regions have degraded significantly, whereas the meadow steppe and alpine steppe showed a significant upward trend. Precipitation can satisfactorily account for vegetation distribution. Changes of livestock quantity was the dominant factor influencing the changes of most vegetation types. The interactions of topographic factors and climate factors have significant effects on vegetation growth. In the region of annual precipitation between 331 mm and 596 mm, forest vegetation type and pine sandy soil type were found to be most suitable for the growth of vegetation in Mongolia. The findings of this study can help us to understand the appropriate range or type of environmental factors affecting vegetation growth in Mongolia, based on which we can apply appropriate interventions to effectively mitigate the impact of environmental changes on vegetation.
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