Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (1): 46-68.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1832-1

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatiotemporal changes of land desertification sensitivity in northwest China from 2000 to 2017

WEI Wei1(), GUO Zecheng2,*(), SHI Peiji1, ZHOU Liang3,4, WANG Xufeng5, LI Zhenya1, PANG Sufei1, XIE Binbin6   

  1. 1. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
    2. College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
    3. Faculty of Geomatics, Lanzhou Jiaotong University, Lanzhou 730070, China
    4. State Key Laboratory of Resources and Environmental Information System, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    5. Key Laboratory of Ecohydrology of Inland River Basin/Gansu Qilian Mountains Ecological Research Center, Northwest Institute of Eco-environment and Resources, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
    6. School of Urban Economics and Tourism Culture, Lanzhou City University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • Received:2020-08-12 Accepted:2020-10-20 Online:2021-01-25 Published:2021-03-25
  • Contact: GUO Zecheng;
  • About author:Wei Wei, PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in environmental RS and GIS application.
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41861040);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41761047);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41961027)


Sensitivity assessment is useful for monitoring land desertification. Research into how to prevent and control desertification is also important. In the arid region of northwest China, desertification is becoming worse and is a serious problem that affects local sustainable development. Based on remote-sensing and geographic information system technology, this study establishes a “soil-terrain-hydrology-climate-vegetation” desertification sensitivity comprehensive evaluation system to reflect the spatiotemporal changes of land desertification, and proposes a spatial distance model to calculate a desertification sensitivity index. The spatiotemporal change characteristics of land desertification sensitivity in northwest China are quantitatively assessed from 2000 to 2017. Moreover, the main driving factors are analyzed using the geographical detector method. The results show the following. (1) Terrain, soil, climate, vegetation and hydrology affect and restrict each other, and constitute the background conditions of the distributions and changes of sensitivity to desertification in northwest China. (2) Desertification sensitivity generally displays a low distribution characteristic on the periphery of the area and a high one in the interior. The low-sensitivity regions are mainly in the five major mountain ranges (Altai Mountains, Tianshan Mountains, Kunlun Mountains, Altun Mountains and Qilian Mountains), while the high-sensitivity regions are mainly in regions such as the Junggar Basin, the Tarim Basin and the Inner Mongolia Plateau, as well as the Taklimakan Desert, Badain Jaran Desert and Tengger Desert. The spatial distribution of desertification sensitivity is obviously regional, and the high- and low-sensitivity regions have clear boundaries and a concentrated distribution. (3) With regard to spatiotemporal evolution, changes in desertification sensitivity since 2000 have been predominantly stable, and the overall sensitivity has displayed a slowly decreasing trend, indicating that potential desertification regions are decreasing annually and that some achievements have been made in the control of regional desertification. (4) Soil and climate play a direct role in the driving factors of desertification in northwest China, and these have been found to be the most important influential factors. Vegetation is the most active and basic factor in changing the sensitivity. In addition, topography and hydrology play a role in restricting desertification changes. Socio-economic factors are the most rapid factors affecting regional desertification sensitivity, and their impacts tend to be gradually increasing. In general, desertification has been effectively controlled in northwest China, and positive results have been achieved in such control. However, against the backdrop of intensified global climate change, increasingly prominent human activities and new normals of socio-economic development, the monitoring, assessment and control of desertification in China still have a long way to go.

Key words: desertification sensitivity, spatiotemporal change, geographical detector, GIS, northwest China