Satellite-based monitoring of decadal soil salinization and climate effects in a semi-arid region of China
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Soil salinization is a common phenomenon that affects both the environment and the socio-economy in arid and semi-arid regions; it is also an important aspect of land cover change. In this study, we integrated multi-sensor remote sensing data with a field survey to analyze processes of soil salinization in a semi-arid area in China from 1979 to 2009. Generally, the area of salt-affected soils increased by 0.28% per year with remarkable acceleration from 1999 to 2009 (0.42% increase per year). In contrast, the area of surface water bodies showed a decreasing trend (−0.08% per year) in the same period. Decreases in precipitation and increases in aridity due to annual (especially summer) warming provided a favorable condition for soil salinization. The relatively flat terrain favored waterlogging at the surface, and continuous drought facilitated upward movement of soil water and accumulation of surface saline and calcium. Meanwhile, land-use practices also played a crucial role in accelerating soil salinization. The conversion to cropland from natural vegetation greatly increased the demand for groundwater irrigation and aggravated the process of soil salinization. Furthermore, there are potential feedbacks of soil salinization to regional climate. The salinization of soils can limit the efficiency of plant water use as well as photosynthesis; therefore, it reduces the amount of carbon sequestrated by terrestrial ecosystem. Soil salinization also reduces the absorbed solar radiation by increasing land surface albedo. Such conversions of land cover significantly change the energy and water balance between land and atmosphere.
Key wordssoil salinization land cover change remote sensing semi-arid China land-atmosphere interactions
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