During the past 10 years, some large-scale ecological construction projects, such as Grain for Green and karst rocky desertification control programs were implemented to improve vegetation cover and ecosystem conditions. Therefore, scientists at the Institute of Subtropical Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISA) believed that it was almost time to assess the impacts of these programs on vegetation changes.
Since vegetation cover is a commonly used indicator to evaluate terrestrial environmental conditions. To examine large-scale vegetation changes, professor WANG Kelin’s research group used a Normal Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) time-series data set obtained from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and climate data from 2000 to 2010 to investigate the spatiotemporal variations in vegetation cover in southern China.
They revealed that hilly southern China has experienced significant environmental changes in response to climate variation and human activities. Areas with increased NDVI values comprised 48.7% of the total area, and improvement is likely to be the result of ecological construction programs. Vegetation cover in 7.5% of the study area had severely decreased, and the decline in NDVI values could be a result of rapid urbanization. “We believe that the combined effects of climate variation and human activities cause the variation in vegetation cover.” said WANG Jing, one of the researchers.
Moreover, their findings showed that land-use controlling measures implemented by the Chinese government at different levels (such as Grain for Green) contributed to vegetation recovery. However, the high risk of drought in the western region severely affected the vegetation and may be masking the benefits of the rocky desertification control project. Overall, these findings suggested that the spatial distribution of extreme weather events should be taken into account in the design and planning of future ecological reconstruction. The selection of proper plant/crop species for ecological restoration projects in the study area could be a useful strategy to deal with the changing climate.
The main findings of this study can be found at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925857415001329.
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