The success of ecological engineering projects on vegetation restoration in China strongly depends on climatic conditions

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China has implemented extensive ecological engineering projects (EEPs) during recent decades to restore and enhance ecosystem functioning. However, the effectiveness of these interventions can vary due to factors such as local climate and specific project objectives. Here, we used two independent satellite remote sensing datasets, including the Global Inventory Monitoring and Modeling System (GIMMS) Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and vegetation optical depth from Ku-band (Ku-VOD), to investigate the vegetation trends in two hotspot regions of EEPs characterized by different climate conditions, i.e., the xeric/semi-xeric Loess Plateau and mesic southwest China. We found diverging vegetation greenness/biomass trend shift patterns in these two regions as a result of the combined effects of EEPs and climate variations, as indicated by changes in the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI). In the Loess Plateau, where no significant climate variations were observed, NDVI/Ku-VOD increased continuously after the implementation of key EEPs in 2000. Conversely, southwest China has experienced persistent drying since 2000, and vegetation greenness/biomass showed an increasing trend during the initial stages of ecological engineering implementation but subsequently reversed towards a decline due to the continued dry climatic conditions. We used the residual trend method to separate the influence of EEPs from climate variations on vegetation trends and found a positive effect of the ecological management practices in the Loess Plateau, yet a predominantly negative effect in the southwest China region, which means that projects implemented in southwest China did not lead to a long-term improvement in vegetation growth under the given climate conditions in southwest China. This adverse impact suggests that ecological engineering practices could potentially increase the ecosystem's vulnerability to droughts, owing to the increased transpirational water demands introduced by ecological engineering interventions. Our study highlights the importance of considering the expected occurrence and magnitude of climatic variability when implementing large-scale EEPs.
TidsskriftScience of the Total Environment
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 2024

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2023YFF1303702 ), the Nation Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 42001299 ), and the Seed Fund Program for Sino-Foreign Joint Scientific Research Platform of Wuhan University (No. WHUZZJJ202205 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier B.V.

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