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The Influences of Climate Change and Human Activities on Vegetation Dynamics in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
College of Global Change and Earth System Sciences, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Rasmus Fensholt, Stephanie Horion Torbern Tagesson, Martin Brandt, Jose Moreno, Clement Atzberger and Prasad S. Thenkabail
Remote Sens. 2016, 8(10), 876;
Received: 30 June 2016 / Revised: 28 September 2016 / Accepted: 18 October 2016 / Published: 23 October 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Land Degradation and Drivers of Change)
PDF [10856 KB, uploaded 25 October 2016]


Grasslands occupy nearly three quarters of the land surface of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau (QTP) and play a critical role in regulating the ecological functions of the QTP. Ongoing climate change and human interference have greatly affected grasslands on the QTP. Differentiating human-induced and climate-driven vegetation changes is vital for both ecological understanding and the management of husbandry. In this study, we employed statistical analysis of annual records, various sources of remote sensing data, and an ecosystem process model to calculate the relative contribution of climate and human activities to vegetation vigor on the QTP. The temperature, precipitation and the intensity and spatial pattern of livestock grazing differed between the periods prior to and after the year 2000, which led to different vegetation dynamics. Overall, increased temperature and enhanced precipitation favored vegetation growth. However, their combined effects exhibited strong spatial heterogeneity. Specifically, increased temperature restrained vegetation growth in dry steppe regions during a period of slightly increasing precipitation from 1986 to 2000 and in meadow regions during a period of precipitation decline during 2000–2011, thereby making precipitation a dominant factor. An increase in precipitation tended to enhance vegetation growth in wet meadow regions during warm periods, and temperature was the limiting factor in Tibet during dry periods. The dominant role played by climate and human activities differed with location and targeted time period. Areas dominated by human activities are much smaller than those dominated by climate. The effects of grazing on grassland pasture were more obvious under unfavorable climate conditions than under suitable ones. View Full-Text
Keywords: grassland; climate change; grazing; contribution; multiple standardize regression grassland; climate change; grazing; contribution; multiple standardize regression

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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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Huang, K.; Zhang, Y.; Zhu, J.; Liu, Y.; Zu, J.; Zhang, J. The Influences of Climate Change and Human Activities on Vegetation Dynamics in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Remote Sens. 2016, 8, 876.

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