• aeolian desertification;
  • Landsat images;
  • Alashan Plateau;
  • sand and dust sources


The development and reversal of aeolian desertification have been widely recognised as the dominant causes of changes in the source areas of dust storms. The Alashan Plateau, which is near China's Hexi Corridor, is one of the major dust storm source regions in northern China. To investigate the relationship between climatic and anthropogenic factors and the development of aeolian desertification, we reconstructed the temporal and spatial evolution of aeolian desertification and the underlying processes from 1975 to 2007 using Landsat images and analysed the driving forces. The results show that aeolian desertified land in the study area covered 32 847·79 km2 in 2007, amounting to 11·3 per cent of the total area, with an initial period of desertification expansion from 1975 to 2000 and a reversal of desertification from 2000 to 2007. On the basis of the analysis of effects of climate changes and human activities in the region, aeolian desertification was principally driven by human activities in this area; climatic variations had little effect on the area of severe desertification. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.