Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2015, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (3): 289-300.doi: 10.1007/s11442-015-1168-9

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Aridity trend and response to vegetation restoration in the loess hilly region of northern Shaanxi Province

Wangjun LI1,2(), Changhe LU1,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2014-01-07 Accepted:2014-03-22 Online:2015-03-15 Published:2015-03-15
  • Contact: Changhe LU;
  • About author:

    Author: Li Wangjun, PhD Candidate,

  • Supported by:
    National Basic Research Program of China, No.2012CB955304


Detecting variation trend in dry-wet conditions can provide information for developing strategic measures to mitigate the impacts of global warming, particularly in dry regions. Taking the hilly region of northern Shaanxi on the Loess Plateau as a case area, this study analyzed the trend of aridity variation during 1981-2012, and explored the effect of vegetation restoration promoted by the Grain-for-Green (GFG) program implemented in 1999. The results indicated that the aridity in the region was non-significantly increased by 0.88% per year during 1981-2012, showing a drying trend. This drying trend and amplitude were changed by the influence of vegetation restoration promoted by the GFG program, based on two findings. The first one was that the aridity variation tended to increase during 1981-1999 while it turned to decrease during 2000-2012, with the regional mean relative change rate changed from 2.45% to -1.06%. This distinction was more remarkable in the loess gully region, where the vegetation was improved more obviously. The second one was that the mean vegetation coverage as indicated by EVI increased by 0.90% to 4.32% per year at county level, while the aridity decreased by 0.14% to 2.32% per year during 2000-2012. The regression analysis using the mean county data indicated that the change rate of aridity was negatively related to that of EVI with the coefficient of determination (R2) of 0.56, illustrating that around half of the aridity decline was explained by the EVI change. The mechanism of this effect was complicated, but it was found that the wind speed decline induced by the vegetation improvement could be an important contributor. It is concluded that the region became drier during 1981-2012, but the eco-restoration reduced the drying speed. However, this conclusion is involved in uncertainties, and further study based on experiments is needed to confirm the effect of the GFG-promoted vegetation restoration.

Key words: aridity, variation trend, hilly Loess Plateau, Grain-for-Grain program