Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 180, Issue 1–4, pp 189–199 | Cite as

Changes in alpine wetland ecosystems of the Qinghai–Tibetan plateau from 1967 to 2004

  • Yu Zhang
  • Genxu Wang
  • Yibo Wang
Open Access


Spatiotemporal shifts in the extent and distribution of alpine wetland ecosystems in China’s Qinghai–Tibet plateau were investigated for the period 1967–2004. Using aerial photographs for 1967, and satellite remote sensing data for 1986, 2000, and 2004/5, the main components and distribution of alpine wetland ecosystems in the headwaters regions of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, as well as those of the nearby Zoige region, were analyzed. Widespread degradation of the Qinghai–Tibet plateau’s alpine wetlands occurred between 1967 and 2004, with over 10% of their area being lost. The greatest such degradation occurred in the headwaters region of Yangtze River, where wetland areas shrank by 29%, and the area of dried-up lakes rose by 17.5%. In the Yellow River’s headwaters region as well as the Zoige region, wetland ecosystems clearly underwent accelerated fragmentation and isolation in their spatial distribution. The wetlands’ degradation was closely correlated to the rise in air temperature, which from 1982–2004 was over 2-fold faster that from 1965–1982.


Alpine wetland Dynamical change Spatial pattern Hydro-ecological function Qinghai–Tibetan plateau 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Resources and EnvironmentLanzhou UniversityLanzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduPeople’s Republic of China

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