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Linking wind erosion to ecosystem services in drylands: a landscape ecological approach

Abstract

Context

Wind erosion is a widespread environmental problem in the world’s arid landscapes, which threatens the sustainability of ecosystem services in these regions.

Objectives

We investigated how wind erosion and key ecosystem services changed concurrently and what major biophysical and socioeconomic factors were responsible for these changes in a dryland area of China.

Methods

Based on remote sensing data, field measurements, and modeling, we quantified the spatiotemporal patterns of both wind erosion and four key ecosystem services (soil conservation, crop production, meat production, and carbon storage) in the Mu Us Sandy Land in northern China during 2000–2013. Linear regression was used to explore possible relationships between wind erosion and ecosystem services.

Results

From 2000 to 2013, wind erosion decreased by as much as 60% and the four ecosystem services all increased substantially. These trends were attributable to vegetation recovery due mainly to government-aided ecological restoration projects and, to a lesser degree, slightly increasing precipitation and decreasing wind speed during the second half of the study period. The maximum soil loss dropped an order of magnitude when vegetation cover increased from 10% to 30%, halved again when vegetation increased from 30 to 40%, and showed little change when vegetation increased beyond 60%.

Conclusions

Our study indicates that vegetation cover has nonlinear and threshold effects on wind erosion through constraining the maximum soil loss, which further affects dryland ecosystem services. These findings have important implications for ecological restoration and ecosystem management in dryland landscapes in China and beyond.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper. This work was supported by the National Basic Research Programs of China (2014CB954302 and 2014CB954303) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41401095).

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Correspondence to Chunyang He.

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Zhao, Y., Wu, J., He, C. et al. Linking wind erosion to ecosystem services in drylands: a landscape ecological approach. Landscape Ecol 32, 2399–2417 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-017-0585-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-017-0585-9

Keywords

  • Wind erosion
  • Ecosystem services
  • Drylands
  • Constraint effect
  • Mu Us Sandy Land, Inner Mongolia