Rapid loss of lakes on the Mongolian Plateau

Shengli Tao, Jingyun Fang, Xia Zhao, Shuqing Zhao, Haihua Shen, Huifeng Hu, Zhiyao Tang, Zhiheng Wang, Qinghua Guo, Billie Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

127 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Lakes are widely distributed on the Mongolian Plateau and, as critical water sources, have sustained Mongolian pastures for hundreds of years. However, the plateau has experienced significant lake shrinkage and grassland degradation during the past several decades. To quantify the changes in all of the lakes on the plateau and the associated driving factors, we performed a satellite-based survey using multitemporal Landsat images from the 1970s to 2000s, combined with ground-based censuses. Our results document a rapid loss of lakes on the plateau in the past decades: the number of lakes with a water surface area >1 km2 decreased from 785 in the late 1980s to 577 in 2010, with a greater rate of decrease (34.0%) in Inner Mongolia of China than in Mongolia (17.6%). This decrease has been particularly pronounced since the late 1990s in Inner Mongolia and the number of lakes >10 km2 has declined by 30.0%. The statistical analyses suggested that in Mongolia precipitation was the dominant driver for the lake changes, and in Inner Mongolia coal mining was most important in its grassland area and irrigation was the leading factor in its cultivated area. The deterioration of lakes is expected to continue in the following decades not only because of changing climate but also increasing exploitation of underground mineral and groundwater resources on the plateau. To protect grasslands and the indigenous nomads, effective action is urgently required to save these valuable lakes from further deterioration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2281-2286
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume112
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 17 2015

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Lakes
China
Mongolia
Coal Mining
Water
Groundwater
Censuses
Climate
Minerals

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Irrigation
  • Lake shrinkage
  • Mining
  • Mongolia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Rapid loss of lakes on the Mongolian Plateau. / Tao, Shengli; Fang, Jingyun; Zhao, Xia; Zhao, Shuqing; Shen, Haihua; Hu, Huifeng; Tang, Zhiyao; Wang, Zhiheng; Guo, Qinghua; Turner, Billie.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 112, No. 7, 17.02.2015, p. 2281-2286.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Tao, S, Fang, J, Zhao, X, Zhao, S, Shen, H, Hu, H, Tang, Z, Wang, Z, Guo, Q & Turner, B 2015, 'Rapid loss of lakes on the Mongolian Plateau', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 112, no. 7, pp. 2281-2286. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1411748112
Tao, Shengli ; Fang, Jingyun ; Zhao, Xia ; Zhao, Shuqing ; Shen, Haihua ; Hu, Huifeng ; Tang, Zhiyao ; Wang, Zhiheng ; Guo, Qinghua ; Turner, Billie. / Rapid loss of lakes on the Mongolian Plateau. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015 ; Vol. 112, No. 7. pp. 2281-2286.
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