Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (10): 1419-1436.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1904-2

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Vertical distribution changes in land cover between 1990 and 2015 within the Koshi River Basin, Central Himalayas

WU Xue1,2(), PAUDEL Basanta1, ZHANG Yili1,3,*(), LIU Linshan1, WANG Zhaofeng1,3, XIE Fangdi1, GAO Jungang4, SUN Xiaomin2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4. Texas A&M AgriLife, Blackland Res & Extens Ctr, Temple, TX 76502, USA
  • Received:2020-11-27 Accepted:2021-08-10 Online:2021-10-25 Published:2021-12-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Yili;
  • About author:Wu Xue (1989-), Postdoctoral Researcher, specialized in land use and land cover change and its ecological effect.E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research(2019QZKK0603);Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA20040201);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41761144081)


The study of mountain vertical natural belts is an important component in the study of regional differentiation. These areas are especially sensitive to climate change and have indicative function, which is the core of three-dimensional zonality research. Thus, based on high precision land cover and digital elevation model (DEM) data, and supported by MATLAB and ArcGIS analyses, this paper aimed to study the present situation and changes of the land cover vertical belts between 1990 and 2015 on the northern and southern slopes of the Koshi River Basin (KRB). Results showed that the vertical belts on both slopes were markedly different from one another. The vertical belts on the southern slope were mainly dominated by cropland, forest, bare land, and glacier and snow cover. In contrast, grassland, bare land, sparse vegetation, glacier and snow cover dominated the northern slope. Study found that the main vertical belts across the KRB within this region have not changed substantially over the past 25 years. In contrast, on the southern slope, the upper limits of cropland and bare land have moved to higher elevation, while the lower limits of forest and glacier and snow cover have moved to higher elevation. The upper limit of alpine grassland on the northern slope retreated and moved to higher elevation, while the lower limits of glacier and snow cover and vegetation moved northward to higher elevations. Changes in the vertical belt were influenced by climate change and human activities over time. Cropland was mainly controlled by human activities and climate warming, and the reduced precipitation also led to the abandonment of cropland, at least to a certain extent. Changes in grassland and forest ecosystems were predominantly influenced by both human activities and climate change. At the same time, glacier and snow cover far away from human activities was also mainly influenced by climate warming.

Key words: vertical belt, land cover, Central Himalayas, Koshi River Basin, climate change