Climatic Change

, Volume 94, Issue 1–2, pp 47–61

Recent land cover changes on the Tibetan Plateau: a review

Open Access
Article

Abstract

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.

References

  1. Bengtsson L, Hagemann S, Hodges KI (2004) Can climate trends be computed from reanalysis data? J Geophys Res 109:D11111. doi:10.1029/2004JD004536 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beniston M (2003) Climatic change in mountain regions: a review of possible impacts. Clim Change 59:5–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beniston M, Fox DG et al (1996) The impacts of climate change on mountain regions. In: Second assessment report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Chapter 5. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Braeuning A, Mantwill B (2004) Summer temperature and summer monsoon history on the Tibetan Plateau during the last 400 years recorded by tree rings. Geophys Res Lett 31:L24205. doi:10.1029/2004GL020793 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brovkin V, Sitch S, von Bloh W, Claussen M, Bauer E, Cramer W (2004) Role of land cover changes for atmospheric CO2 increases and climate change during the last 150 years. Glob Chang Biol 10:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Charney JG (1975) Dynamics of deserts and droughts in the Sahel. Q J R Meteorol Soc 101:193–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cheng G, Wu T (2007) Responses of permafrost to climate change and their environmental significance, Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. J Geophys Res 112:F02S03. doi:10.1029/2006JF000631 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Christensen JH et al (eds) (2007) Regional Climate Projections. In: Solomon S et al (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  9. Covey C, AchutaRao KM, Cubasch U, Jones P, Lambert SJ, Mann ME, Philips TJ, Taylor KE (2003) An overview of results from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP). Glob Planet Change 37:103–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cui XF, Graf HF, Langmann B, Chen W, Huang RH (2006) Climate impacts of anthropogenic land use changes on the Tibetan Plateau. Glob Planet Change 54:33–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cui XF, Graf HF, Langmann B, Chen W, Huang RH (2007a) Hydrological impacts of deforestation on the southeastern Tibetan Plateau: a model study. Earth Interact 11(15):1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cui XF, Langmann B, Garf HF (2007b) Summer monsoonal rainfall simulation on the Tibetan Plateau with a regional climate model using a one-way double-nesting system. Sci Online Lett Atmos 3:49–52Google Scholar
  13. Ding M, Zhang Y, Shen Z, Liu L, Zhang W, Wang Z, Bai W, Zheng D (2006) Land cover change along the Qinghai–Tibet Highway and Railway from 1981 to 2001. J Geogr Sci 16(4):387–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ding M, Zhang Y, Liu L, Zhang W, Wang Z, Bai W (2007) The relationship between NDVI and precipitation on the Tibetan Plateau. J Geogr Sci 17(3):259–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Du M, Kawashima S, Yonemura S, Zhang X, Chen S (2004) Mutual influence between human activities and climate change in the Tibetan Plateau during recent years. Glob Planet Change 41:241–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. FAO (2001) State of the world’s forestry 2001. http://www.fao.org
  17. Frauenfeld OW, Zhang T, Serreze MC (2005) Climate change and variability using European centre for medium-range weather forecasts reanalysis (ERA40) temperatures on the Tibetan Plateau. J Geophys Res 110:D02101. doi:10.1029/2004JD005230 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. GLC2000 (2003) Global landcover classification for the year 2000. http://www-gem.jrc.it/glc2000/
  19. Houghton RA, Hackler JL (2003) Sources and sinks of carbon from land-use change in China. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 17(2):1034. doi:10.1029/2002GB001970 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hsu HH, Liu X (2003) Relationship between the Tibetan Plateau heating and East Asian summer monsoon rainfall. Geophys Res Lett 30:D2066. doi:10.1029/2003GL017909 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jin H, Zhao L, Wang S, Jin R (2006) Thermal regimes and degradation modes of permafrost along the Qinghai–Tibet Highway. Sci China Ser D Earth Sci 49:1170–1183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kalnay E, Cai M (2003) Impact of urbanization and land-use change on climate. Nature 423(6939):528–531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Klein Goldewijk K (2001) Estimating global land use change over the past 300 years: the HYDE database. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 15(2):417–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kondo J, Xu J (1997) Seasonal variations in the heat and water balances for nonvegetated surfaces. J Appl Meteor 36:1676–1695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lin Z, Zhao X (1996) Spatial characteristics of changes in temperature and precipitation of the Qinghai–Xizang (Tibet) Plateau. Sci China Ser D 39:442–448Google Scholar
  26. Liu XD, Chen B (2000) Climate warming in the Tibetan Plateau during recent decades. Int J Climatol 20:1729–1742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liu XD, Yin ZY (2002) Sensitivity of East Asian monsoon climate to the Tibetan Plateau uplift. Palaeogeogr Palaeoecol 183:223–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liu J, Tian H, Liu M, Zhuang D, Melillo JM, Zhang Z (2005a) China’s changing landscape during the 1990s: large-scale land transformation estimated with satellite data. Geophys Res Lett 32:L02405. doi:10.1029/2004GL021649 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liu YH, Dong GR, Li S, Dong YX (2005b) Status, causes and combating suggestions of sandy desertification in Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. Chin Geogr Sci 15:289–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ma Y, Su Z, Koike T, Yao T, Ishikawa H, Ueno K, Menenti M (2003) On measuring and remote sensing surface energy partitioning over the Tibetan Plateau—from GAME/Tibet to CAMP/Tibet. Phys Chem Earth 28:63–74Google Scholar
  31. Ma Y, Zhong L, Su Z, Ishikawa H, Menenti M, Koike T (2006) Determination of regional and seasonal variations of land surface heat fluxes from Landsat-7 enhanced thematic mapper data over the central Tibetan Plateau area. J Geophys Res 111:D10305. doi:10.1029/2005JD006742 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Manabe S, Broccoli AJ (1990) Mountains and arid climate of middle latitudes. Science 247:192–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Manabe S, Terpsta TB (1974) The effects of mountains on the general circulation of the atmosphere as identified by numerical experiments. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 31:3–42Google Scholar
  34. Miehe G, Miehe S, Koch K, Will M (2003) Sacred forests in Tibet. Mt Res Dev 23(4):324–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miehe G, Miehe S, Will M, Opgenoorth L, Duo L, Dorgeh T, Liu J (2008) An inventory of forest relicts in the pastures of Southern Tibet (Xizang A.R., China). Plant Ecol 194:157–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ni J (2000) A simulation of biomes on the Tibetan Plateau and their responses to global climate change. Mt Res Dev 20(1):80–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Niu T, Chen L, Zhou Z (2004) The characteristics of climate change over the Tibetan Plateau in the last 40 years and the detection of the climate jumps. Adv Atmos Sci 21(2):193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Qin B, Huang Q (1998) Evaluation of the climatic change impacts on the inland lake—a case study of Lake Qinghai, China. Clim Change 39(4):695–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sato T, Kimura F (2007) How does the Tibetan Plateau affect the transition of Indian monsoon rainfall? Mon Weather Rev 135:2006–2015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sen KK, Senwal RL, Rana U, Nautiyal S, Maikuri RK, Rao KS, Saxena G (2002) Patterns and implications of land use/cover change: a case study in Pranmati watershed (Garhawal Himalaya, India). Mt Res Dev 22:56–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shang Z, Long R (2007) Formation causes and recovery of the “Black Soil Type” degraded alpine grassland in Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Front Agric China 1:197–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sharma KP, Vorosmarty CJ, Moore B III (2000) Sensitivity of the Himalayan hydrology to land-use and climate changes. Clim Change 47:117–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shimizu S, Ueno K, Fujii H, Shirooka R, Liu L (2001) Mesoscale characteristics and structures of stratiform precipitation on the Tibetan Plateau. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 79(1B):435–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Simmons AJ, Gibson JK (2000) The ERA40 project plan. ERA40 project report series, no 1. ECMWF, Reading, UKGoogle Scholar
  45. Singh J, Yadav RR (2005) Spring precipitation variations over the western Himalaya, India, since A.D. 1731 as deduced from tree rings. J Geophys Res 110:D01110. doi:10.1029/2004JD004855 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Song MH, Zhou CP, Hua QY (2004) Distributions of dominant tree species on the Tibetan Plateau under current and future climate scenarios. Mt Res Dev 24(2):166–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stich S, Brovkin V, von Bloh W, van Vuuren D, Eickhout B, Ganopolski A (2005) Impacts of future land cover changes on atmospheric CO2 and climate. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 19:GB2013. doi:10.1029/2004GB002311 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Studley J (1999) Forests and environmental degradation in SW China. Int For Rev 1(4):260–265Google Scholar
  49. Suh MS, Lee DK (2004) Impacts of land use/cover changes on surface climate over east Asia for extreme climate cases using RegCM2. J Geophys Res 109:D02108. doi:10.1029/2003JD003681 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tanaka K, Tamagawa I, Ishikawa H, Ma Y, Hu Z (2003) Surface energy budget and closure of the eastern Tibetan Plateau during the GAME-Tibet IOP 1998. J Hydro 283:169–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tang MC, Cheng GD, Lin ZY (eds) (1998) Contemporary climatic variations over the Qinghai–Xizang (Tibet) Plateau and their influences on environments. Guangdong Science and Technology Press, Guangzhou (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  52. Tong C, Wu Q (1996) The effect of climate warming on the Qinghai–Tibet highway. Cold Reg Sci Technol 24:101–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ueno K, Fujii H, Yamada H, Liu L (2001) Weak and frequent monsoon precipitation over the Tibetan Plateau. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 79(1B):419–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vitousek PM, Mooney HA, Lubchenco L, Melillo JM (1997) Human domination of Earth’s ecosystems. Science 277:494–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wang SL, Jin HJ, Li SX, Zhao L (2000) Permafrost degradation on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau and its environmental impacts. Permafrost Peroglac Process 11:43–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang X, Fu X (2004) Sustainable management of alpine meadows on the Tibetan plateau: problems overlooked and suggestions for change. Ambio 33(3):169–171Google Scholar
  57. Wang W, Wang Q, Wang H (2006) The effect of land management on plant community composition, species diversity, and productivity of alpine Kobersia steppe meadow. Ecol Res 21:181–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wei X, Li S, Yang P, Cheng H (2007) Soil erosion and vegetation succession in Alpine Kobresia Steppe Meadow caused by Plateau Pika—a case study of Nagqu County, Tibet. Chin Geogr Sci 17:75–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Xu J, Haginoya S (2001) An estimation of heat and water balances in the Tibetan Plateau. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 79(1B):485–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Xu X, Chen H, Levy JK (2008) Spatiotemporal vegetation cover variations in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau under global climate change. Chin Sci Bull 53:915–922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Yadav RR, Park WK, Singh J, Dubey B (2004) Do the western Himalayas defy global warming? Geophys Res Lett 31:L17201. doi:10.1029/2004GL020201 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yang M, Wang S, Yao T, Gou X, Lu A, Guo X (2004) Desertification and its relationship with permafrost degradation in Qinghai–Xizang (Tibet) plateau. Cold Reg Sci Technol 39:47–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ye D, Gao Y (eds) (1979) The meteorology of the Qinghai–Xizang (Tibet) Plateau. Sciences Press, Beijing (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  64. Ye D, Wu GX (1998) The role of the heat source of the Tibetan Plateau in the general circulation. Meteorol Atmos Phys 67:181–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Yin ZY, Lin ZY, Zhao XY (2000) Temperature anomalies in central and eastern Tibetan Plateau in relation to general circulation patterns during 1951–1993. Int J Climatol 20:1431–1449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Yin J, Liu C, Zhao W, He K (2004) Tree productivity and water potential productivity in returning farmland to forest project in Datong County, Qinghai Province. Forest Stud China 6:36–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. You Q, Kang S, Aguilar E, Yan Y (2008) Changes in daily climate extremes in the eastern and central Tibetan Plateau during 1961–2005. J Geophys Res 113:D07101. doi:10.1029/2007JD009389 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zeng Y, Feng Z, Cao G (2003) Land cover change and its environmental impact in the upper reaches of the Yellow River, northeast Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Mt Res Dev 23(4):353–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zhang H, McGuffie K, Henderson-Sellers A (1996a) Impacts of tropical deforestation. Part II: the role of large-scale dynamics. J Climate 9:2498–2521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zhang XS, Yang DA, Zhou GS, Liu CY, Zhang J (1996b) Model expectation of impacts of global climate change on biomes of the Tibetan Plateau. In: Omasa K (ed) Climate change and plants in East Asia. Springer, Tokyo, pp 25–38Google Scholar
  71. Zhang P, Shao G, Zhao G, Le Master DC, Parker GR, Dunning JB Jr, Li Q (2000) China’s forest policy for the 21st century. Science 288:2135–2136 (in policy forum)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zou X, Li S, Zhang C, Dong G, Dong Y, Yan P (2002) Desertification and control plan in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. J Arid Environ 51:183–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations