Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2014, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (5): 802-814.doi: 10.1007/s11442-014-1121-3

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The effect of environmental factors on spatial variability in land use change in the high-sediment region of China’s Loess Plateau

Ya LUO1,2(), Shengtian YANG1, Changsen ZHAO1,*(), Xiaoyan LIU3, Changming LIU4,5, Linna WU1,6, Haigen ZHAO1, Yichi ZHANG1   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing Key Laboratory for Remote Sensing of Environment and Digital Cities, Beijing 100875, China
    2. School of Geographic and Environmental Sciences, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001, China
    3. Yellow River Conservancy Commission, Zhengzhou 450003, China
    4. College of Water Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    5. Key Laboratory of Land Water Cycle and Surface Processes, CAS, IGSNRR, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    6. College of Resource and Environment Engineering, Guizhou University, Guiyang 550025, China
  • Received:2013-12-08 Accepted:2014-04-20 Online:2014-05-20 Published:2014-05-20
  • About author:

    Author: Luo Ya (1979-), Associate Professor, specialized in LUCC and soil erosion. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Key Technologies R&D Program, No.2012BAB02B00.Public Welfare Foundation of the Ministry of Water Resources of China, No.201101037.The Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities


In areas with topographic heterogeneity, land use change is spatially variable and influenced by climate, soil properties, and topography. To better understand this variability in the high-sediment region of the Loess Plateau in which soil loss is most severe and sediment diameter is larger than in other regions of the plateau, this study builds some indicators to identify the characteristics of land use change and then analyze the spatial variability as it is affected by climate, soil property, and topography. We build two indicators, a land use change intensity index and a vegetation change index, to characterize the intensity of land use change, and the degree of vegetation restoration, respectively. Based on a subsection mean method, the two indicators are then used to assess the spatial variability of land use change affected by climatic, edaphic, and topographic elements. The results indicate that: 1) Land use changed significantly in the period 1998-2010. The total area experiencing land use change was 42,302 km2, accounting for 22.57%of the study area. High-coverage grassland, other woodland, and forest increased significantly, while low-coverage grassland and farmland decreased in 2010 compared with 1998. 2) Land use change occurred primarily west of the Yellow River, between 35 and 38 degrees north latitude. The four transformation types, including (a) low-coverage grassland to medium-coverage grassland, (b) medium-coverage grassland to high-coverage grassland, (c) farmland to other woodland, and (d) farmland to medium-coverage grassland, were the primary types of land use change, together constituting 60% of the area experiencing land use change. 3) The spatial variability of land use change was significantly affected by properties of dryness/wetness, soil conditions and slope gradient. In general, land use changed dramatically in semi-arid regions, remained relatively stable in arid regions, changed significantly in clay-rich soil, remained relatively stable in clay-poor soil, changed dramatically in steeper slopes, and remained relatively stable in tablelands and low-lying regions. The increase in vegetation coincided with increasing changes in land use for each physical element. These findings allow for an evaluation of the effect of the Grain to Green Program, and are applicable to the design of soil and water conservation projects on the Loess Plateau of China.

Key words: spatial variability, land use change, dryness/wetness, soil properties, slope gradient, the high-sediment region of China’s Loess Plateau