Understanding groundwater-vegetation interactions is crucial for sustaining fragile environments of desert areas such as the Horqin Sandy Land (HSL) in northern China. This study examined spatio-temporal variations in the water table and the associated vegetation status of a 9.71 km2
area that contains meadowland, sandy dunes, and intermediate transitional zones. The depth of the water table and hydrometeorologic parameters were monitored and Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data were utilized to assess the vegetation cover. Spatio-temporal variations over the six-year study period were examined and descriptive groundwater–vegetation associations developed by overlaying a water table depth map onto a vegetation index map derived from MODIS. The results indicate that the water table depends on the local topography, localized geological settings, and human activities such as reclamation, with fluctuations occurring at annual and monthly scales as a function of precipitation and potential evapotranspiration. Locations where the water table is closer to the surface tend to have more dense and productive vegetation. The water table depth is more closely associated with vegetative density in meadowlands than in transitional zones, and only poorly associated with vegetation in sandy dunes.
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