Climate Change and Desertification with Special Reference to the Cases in China

  • Xiaoping Yang
Part of the International Year of Planet Earth book series (IYPE)


This chapter briefly reviews the terminological origin, development and the latest status of desertification and demonstrates the significant impact of the climatic variations in the processes of desertification and its rehabilitations. Two typical arid regions at Asia’s middle latitudes are selected as cases for studies, i.e., the oases in the hyper-arid Taklamakan Desert in the west and the semi-arid Hunshandake Sandy Land in the east (Fig. 1). It shows that humans set up cultivation bases in the center of the Taklamakan Desert over 2,000 years ago and the later abandonment of these bases was probably caused by decrease in runoffs associated with droughts. In shaping the landscape changes between soil formation and aeolian sedimentation in the Hunshandake, the role played by the Holocene changes of East Asia summer monsoons surpasses the impact of human activities since the Neolithic time, meaning that the climatic background and its potential changes should be given greater attention in the aims and schemes of combating desertification. The rapid vegetation regeneration in recent years in the Hunshandake reconfirms the great importance of climatic background in ecological rehabilitations in desertified lands. In the course of global warming, the risks of desertification are likely to increase in both areas due to different reasons.


Desertification Climatic change Oasis Arid zone Semiarid area China 



We are very grateful to Professor John Dodson for the opportunity to participate in this IYPE project and for his more than generous help in improving the writing. Our work on drylands in recent years has been financially supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant no.: kzcx2-yw-119) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no.: 40930105). Sincere thanks are extended to Hongwei Li for cartographical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geology and GeophysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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