Investigating and Predicting spatiotemporal variations in vegetation cover in transitional climate zone: a case study of Gansu (China)

Qing He, Kwok Pan Chun, Bastien Dieppois, Liang Chen, Ping Yu Fan, Emir Toker, Omer Yetemen, Xicai Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Vegetation ecosystems are sensitive to large-scale climate variability in climate transition zones. As a representative transitional climate zone in Northwest China, Gansu is characterized by a sharp climate and vegetation gradient. In this study, the spatiotemporal variations of vegetation over Gansu are characterized using the satellite-based Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) observations during 2000-2020. Results demonstrate that a significant greening trend in vegetation over Gansu is positively linked with large-scale climate factors through modulating the water and energy dynamics. As a climate transition zone, the northern water-limited and southern energy-limited regions of Gansu are affected by water and energy dynamics, differently. In the water-limited region, a weakening Asian monsoon along with colder Central Pacific (CP) and warmer North Pacific (NP) Oceans enhance prevailing westerlies which bring more atmospheric moisture. The enhanced atmospheric moisture and rising temperature promote the local vegetation growth. In contrast, large-scale climate variations suppress the southwest monsoon moisture fluxes and reduce precipitation in southern energy-limited regions. In these energy-limited regions, temperature has more effects on vegetation growth than precipitation. Therefore, the greenness of vegetation is because of more available energy from higher temperatures despite overall drying conditions in the region. Based on the above mechanism, future scenarios for climate impacts on vegetation cover over Gansu region are developed based on the two latest generation from coupled climate models (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 and Phase 6; CMIP5 and CMIP6). In the near-term future (2021-2039), the vegetation is likely to increase due to rising temperature. However, the vegetation is expected to decrease in a long-term future (2080-2099) when the energy-limited regions become water-limited due to increasing regional temperatures and lowering atmospheric moisture flux. This study reveals an increasing desertification risk over Gansu. Similar investigations will be valuable in climate transition regions worldwide to explore how large-scale climate variability affects local ecological services under different future climate scenarios.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-307
Number of pages25
JournalTheorectical and Applied Climatology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating and Predicting spatiotemporal variations in vegetation cover in transitional climate zone: a case study of Gansu (China)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this