Environmental Earth Sciences

, 76:137 | Cite as

The dynamic response of lakes in the Tuohepingco Basin of the Tibetan Plateau to climate change

  • Zhilong Zhao
  • Fenggui Liu
  • Yili ZhangEmail author
  • Linshan LiuEmail author
  • Wei Qi
Original Article


The Tibetan Plateau (TP) is particularly sensitive to the influences of climate change. As indicators of climate change, lakes on the TP play a key role in the Earth’s climatic system. Lake Yazi (LY), Lake Tuohepingco (LT) and Lake Changtiao (LC) in the Tuohepingco Basin are three inland lakes on the plateau. The extents of LY, LT and LC were obtained using object-based image analysis for remote sensing and 22 images from Landsat satellites (from September to December between 1972 and 2015). Inter-annual changes in the extent of LY, LT and LC were then analyzed. The results show that the total area of the three lakes underwent a change from shrinkage to expansion between 1972 and 2015. In general, there was a trend toward shrinkage during 1972–1999, distinct expansion during 2000–2007 and slight expansion during 2008–2015. Moreover, we found that 14 other lakes have also expanded dramatically since 2000. Lakes at 30°N and 35°N (LY, LT and LC are also located in this region) exhibited the same dramatic period of expansion between 2000 and 2005. In other words, 2000 appears to be a critical transition point for changes in lake size on the TP. Lakes at the same latitudes in the Tibetan Plateau interior may have a similar period of dramatic expansion after 2000. The warming-triggered deglaciation or permafrost degradation, increased precipitation and decreased evapotranspiration may be the influencing factors of lake expansion in the Tuohepingco Basin. Temperature showed relatively higher correlation with lake extent, while precipitation and evaporation were slightly correlated with lake area. Given the importance of wetlands to human society, these are no trivial issues, and we now need accelerated research based on long-term and continuous remote sensing.


Tibetan Plateau Tuohepingco Basin Climate change Lake expansion Dramatic expansion period 



The authors would like to thank Dr Yaning Chen, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Dr Yanjun Shen, Center for Agricultural Resources Research, CAS, and Dr Zhaofeng Wang, Shicheng Li and Lanhui Li, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, for their thoughtful suggestions on the manuscript. This study was financially supported by the Key Foundation Project of Basic Work of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (Grant 2012FY111400), National Key Technologies R&D Program (Grant 2013BAC04B02) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants 41671104, 41271123).

Author contributions

Z. Z., L. L. and Y. Z. conceived and designed the experiments; L. L. and F. L. contributed to the ideas; Z. Z. contributed to the data analysis, interpretation and manuscript writing; Z. Z. performed the experiments; and W. Q. analyzed the data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Biological and Geographic SciencesQinghai Normal UniversityXiningChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina

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