Environmental change has been a topic of great interest over the last century due to its potential impact on ecosystem services that are fundamental for sustainable development and human well-being. Here, we assess and quantify the spatial and temporal variation in land cover in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (NHAR), China. With high-resolution (30 m) imagery from Landsat 4/5-TM and 8-OLI for the entire region, land cover maps of the region were created to explore local land cover changes in a spatially explicit way. The results suggest that land cover changes observed in NHAR from 1991 to 2015 reflect the main goals of a national policy implemented there to recover degraded landscapes. Forest, herbaceous vegetation and cultivated land increased by approximately 410,200 ha, 708,600 ha and 164,300 ha, respectively. The largest relative land cover change over the entire study period was the increase in forestland. Forest growth resulted mainly from the conversion of herbaceous vegetation (53.8%) and cultivated land (30.8%). Accurate information on the local patterns of land cover in NHAR may contribute to the future establishment of better landscape policies for ecosystem management and protection. Spatially explicit information on land cover change may also help decision makers to understand and respond appropriately to emerging environmental risks for the local population.
- Earth observations
- Environmental change
- Geographic information systems
- Land cover change
- Remote sensing