Observed Vegetation Greening and Its Relationships with Cropland Changes and Climate in China

By Yuzhen Zhang, Shunlin Liang and Zhiqiang Xiao

Chinese croplands have changed considerably over the past decades, but their impacts on the environment remain underexplored. Meanwhile, understanding the contributions of human activities to vegetation greenness has been attracting more attention but still needs to be improved. To address both issues, this study explored vegetation greening and its relationships with Chinese cropland changes and climate. Greenness trends were first identified from the normalized difference vegetation index and leaf area index from 1982–2015 using three trend detection algorithms. Boosted regression trees were then performed to explore underlying relationships between vegetation greening and cropland and climate predictors. The results showed the widespread greening in Chinese croplands but large discrepancies in greenness trends characterized by different metrics. Annual greenness trends in most Chinese croplands were more likely nonlinearly associated with climate compared with cropland changes, while cropland percentage only predominantly contributed to vegetation greening in the Sichuan Basin and its surrounding regions with leaf area index data and, in the Northeast China Plain, with vegetation index data. Results highlight both the differences in vegetation greenness using different indicators and further impacts on the nonlinear relationships with cropland and climate, which have been largely ignored in previous studies.

The full article is available on the Land website at https://www.mdpi.com/2073-445X/9/8/274/htm


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