Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2015, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (7): 879-896.doi: 10.1007/s11442-015-1208-5

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles    

Recent changes in wetlands on the Tibetan Plateau: A review

Zhilong ZHAO1,4(), Yili ZHANG1,2,*(), Linshan LIU1,*(), Fenggui LIU3, Haifeng ZHANG3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing, 100101, China
    2. CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    3. College of Biological and Geographic Sciences, Qinghai Normal University, Xining 810008, China
    4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2014-11-16 Accepted:2014-12-12 Online:2015-07-15 Published:2015-06-24
  • Contact: Yili ZHANG,Linshan LIU;;
  • About author:

    Author: Zhao Zhilong (1988-), PhD Candidate, specialized in land-use and land-cover change and physical geography.

  • Supported by:
    Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.XDB03030500;The National Key Technology Research and Development Program, No.2013BAC04B02, No.2012BAC06B00;The Key Foundation Project of Basic Work of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, No.2012FY111400


About 80% of global wetland resources are degrading or disappearing; thus the wetland ecosystem has become one of the most seriously threatened ecosystems in the world. As an area sensitive to global changes and acting as a security barrier for the Asian ecosystem, the Tibetan Plateau has about 13.19×104 km2 of wetlands of special significance within China. With the increasing application of remote sensing technology to wetland research, Tibetan Plateau wetland research has entered a period of rapid development. This paper summarizes the remote sensing research literature of the Tibetan Plateau wetlands from 1992 to 2014, and is intended to provide references for future research into the wetlands of the Tibetan Plateau. We have reviewed monitoring methods, research topics, and existing problems. Our review has revealed the following characteristics: (1) Over the past 40 years, the research paradigm of the Tibetan Plateau wetlands has undergone dynamic changes in the monitoring of wetland areas, landscape patterns and the eco-environment based on remote sensing technology. Attention has also been focused on constructing models with an ecological system perspective and analyzing three patterns of change trends within the Tibetan Plateau wetlands. (2) The results of Tibetan Plateau wetland research based on remote sensing were as follows: (a) between 1970 and 2006, the Tibetan Plateau wetland area decreased overall at a rate of 0.23%/a, and the landscape diversity declined at a rate of 0.17%/a; (b) by contrast, between 1976 and 2009, the lake area of the inland river basins in the Tibetan Plateau increased at a rate of 0.83%/a; and (c) the change trend in the Tibetan Plateau wetlands was controlled by climate change. Current problems relating to remote sensing (RS)-based research in the Tibetan Plateau wetlands are computer interpretation accuracy and the processing precision of cloud removal, and the lack of a comprehensive overview of the Tibetan Plateau wetland system. Finally, based on the review, some key activities for future study have been proposed, as follows: (1) Strengthening the integration of the Tibetan Plateau wetland research with remote sensing research; (2) discussing the response and adaptation mechanisms of the Tibetan Plateau wetland ecosystem within the context of global change; (3) strengthening the integration of remote sensing (RS), geographic information system (GIS), and global positioning system (GPS), and promoting the construction of a Tibetan Plateau wetland information platform.

Key words: Tibetan Plateau, wetland, research in remote sensing