In arid regions, oases ecosystems are fragile and sensitive to climate change, and water is the major limiting factor for environmental and socio-economic developments. Understanding the drivers of land use/cover change (LUCC) in arid regions is important for the development of management strategies to improve or prevent environmental deterioration and loss of natural resources. The Kashgar Region is the key research area in this study; it is a typical mountain-alluvial plain-oasis-desert ecosystem in an arid region, and is one of the largest oases in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. In addition, the Kashgar Region is an important cotton and grain production area. This study’s main objectives are to quantify predominant LUCCs and identify their driving forces, based on the integration of multiple remote sensors and applications of environmental and socio-economic data. Results showed that LUCCs have been significant in the Kashgar Region during the last 42 years. Cultivated land and urban/built-up lands were the most changed land cover (LC), by 3.6% and 0.4% from 1972 to 10.2% and 3% in 2014, respectively. By contrast, water and forest areas declined. Grassland and snow-covered areas have fluctuated along with climate and human activities. Bare land was changed slightly from 1972 to 2014. According to the land use transfer matrix, cultivated land replaced grass- and forestland. Urban/built-up land mainly expanded over cultivated and bare land. LUCCs were triggered by the interplay of natural and social drivers. Increasing runoff, caused by regional climate changes in seasonal variation, and snow melt water, have provided water resources for LC changes. In the same way, population growth, changes in land tenure, and socio-economic development also induced LUCCs. However, expansion of cultivated land and urban/built-up land led to increased water consumption and stressed fragile water systems during on-going climate changes. Therefore, the selection of adaption strategies relating to climate change and oasis development is very important for sustainable development in the Kashgar Region.
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