Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
18 Nov 2014
Research article |  | 18 Nov 2014

Analysis of land cover change and its driving forces in a desert oasis landscape of Xinjiang, northwest China

T. Amuti and G. Luo

Abstract. The combined effects of drought, warming and the changes in land cover have caused severe land degradation for several decades in the extremely arid desert oases of southern Xinjiang, northwest China. Land cover classifications of Landsat images in 1990, 2000 and 2008 were performed based on the multistage supervised classification scheme using the maximum likelihood classifier integrated with conventional vegetation and soil indexes, which improved overall accuracies by 4–5% compared to the standard classification method. Based on the detection of changes in land cover during 1990–2008 using remote sensing (RS) and a geographic information system (GIS), it can be found that the oasis significantly (+35%) increased, while the area of ecotone decreased (−43%). The major trends of the land cover changes were the notable growth of the oasis and the reduction of the desert–oasis ecotone. These changes were mainly a result of the intensified human activities such as land and water exploitation as well as overgrazing. The results of this study indicate that the oasis environment will be deteriorated by increase in potential areas of land degradation if the trend of desert moving further inward and the shrinking of the ecotone continues over the next decades.

Short summary
In this paper, we present research on the spatial-temporal pattern of land cover change in the fragile ecosystem of the arid desert oasis of Hotan in northwest China. Multi-temporal Landsat images were used to analyze the land cover change and to identify change trajectories. The natural and human driving forces of these changes were examined using hydro-climatic data and socio-economic data.