Both natural and human factors contributing to desertification were examined to understand the driving mechanisms of the desertification process in Zhalute Banner, Inner Mongolia of China. The coefficient of variation (CV) and climate departure index (Z) were calculated to examine the fluctuations and trends of interannual variations of temperature and precipitation; TM remote sensing data was extracted to obtain the sandy land area; linear regression analysis was used to analyze climate changes and the socio-economic evolution over the years, and it was also used to standardize the variables, which included annual temperature, annual precipitation, human population, and livestock number, in order to measure the difference in the rate of change between climate and anthropogenic factors. The results showed that there was a rise of about 1.6°C in temperature but no significant change in precipitation from 1961 to 2000, which indicated a short-term climatic trend toward aridity in this area, a condition necessary for desertification. The fraction of precipitation in spring tended to increase whilst the fraction in autumn and winter decreased. Both the human population and livestock population had tripled and the cultivated area had doubled from 1961 to 2000, suggesting that socio-economic factors might have contributed more significantly to the desertification. Between 1988 and 1997, the sandy land area increased by 12.5%, nearly 2.4 times in the farming section. It could be concluded that the driving mechanisms of the desertification processes in Zhalute banner are mainly the policy of cropland expansion and the rising populations of humans and their livestock, which has affected the land use pattern in the past decades.
climatic change potential evapo-transpiration (PE) human activities land use change