Frontiers in Environmental Science ( IF 2.749 ) Pub Date : 2021-01-12 , DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2021.633020 Xuyang Wang; Yuqiang Li; XinYuan Wang; Yulin Li; Jie Lian; Xiangwen Gong
China faces some of the most serious desertification in the world, leading to many problems. To solve them, large-scale ecological restoration projects were implemented. To assess their effectiveness, we analyzed normalized-difference vegetation index (NDVI) data derived from SPOT VEGETATION and gridded climate datasets from 1998 to 2015 to detect the degrees of desertification and the effects of human and climate drivers on vegetation dynamics. We found that NDVI of desertified areas generally decreased before 2000, then increased. The annual increase in NDVI was fixed dunes (0.0013) = semi-fixed dunes (0.0013) > semi-mobile dunes (0.0012) > gobi (gravel) desert (0.0011) > mobile dunes (0.0003) > saline–alkali land (0.0000). The proportions of the area of each desert type in which NDVI increased were fixed dunes (43.4%) > semi-mobile dunes (39.7%) > semi-fixed dunes (26.7%) > saline–alkali land (23.1%) > gobi desert (14.4%) > mobile dunes (12.5%). Thus, the vegetation response to the restoration efforts increased as the initial dune stability increased. The proportion of the area where desertification was dominated by temperature (1.8%) was far less than the area dominated by precipitation (14.1%). However, 67.6% of the change was driven by non-climatic factors. The effectiveness of the ecological restoration projects was significant in the Loess Plateau and in the Mu Us, Horqin, and Hulunbuir sandy lands. In contrast, there was little effect in the Badain Jaran, Ulan Buh, and Tengger deserts; in particular, vegetation cover has declined seriously in the Hunshandake Sandy Land and Alkin Desert Grassland. Thus, more or different ecological restoration must be implemented in these areas.