Climatic Change

, Volume 94, Issue 1–2, pp 47–61

Recent land cover changes on the Tibetan Plateau: a review

Open Access


This paper reviews the land cover changes on the Tibetan Plateau during the last 50 years partly caused by natural climate change and, more importantly, influenced by human activities. Recent warming trends on the plateau directly influence the permafrost and snow melting and will impact on the local ecosystem greatly. Human activities increased rapidly on the plateau during the last half century and have significant impacts on land use. Significant land cover changes on the Tibetan Plateau include permafrost and grassland degradation, urbanization, deforestation and desertification. These changes not only impact on local climate and environment, but also have important hydrological implications for the rivers which originate from the plateau. The most noticeable disasters include the flooding at the upper reaches of Yangtze River and droughts along the middle and lower reaches of Yellow River. Future possible land cover changes under future global climate warming are important but hard to assess due to the deficits of global climate model in this topographically complex area. Integrated investigation of climate and ecosystems, including human-beings, are highly recommended for future studies.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK
  2. 2.Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Centre for Atmospheric ScienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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