Decadal Land-Cover Changes in China and Their Impacts on the Atmospheric Environment

  • Mengmeng Li
  • Yu Song
Part of the Springer Remote Sensing/Photogrammetry book series (SPRINGERREMO)


As the fundamental interface for land–atmosphere energy exchange and material cycle, land-cover changes play a pivotal role in climate change, biogeochemical cycle, and atmospheric composition. This study investigates the decadal land-cover changes in China since the early 1990s and their impacts on the atmospheric environment using a numerical model coupled with remote sensing datasets. In the recent decades, increased urbanization and afforestation occurred in China, which posed great environmental consequences. A typical urban heat island (UHI) is generated in China’s two urban agglomerations—the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region and the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region. The UHI effect, in turn, enhances turbulent mixing and modifies local circulations, i.e., initiates the UHI circulation, and strengthens the sea breeze and lake breeze circulations. The deeper urban boundary layer (200400 m) and rising branch (0.20.6 m s−1) of UHI circulation in PRD are favorable for NOx dilution, thus weakening the daytime photochemical production and nocturnal chemical depletion of ozone (O3). As a result, urbanization causes a detectable decrease in daytime O3 (1.3 ppb) and a nocturnal O3 increase (+5.2 ppb). Emissions of high-reactivity biogenic volatile organics (BVOCs) are highly dependent on forest cover, and could significantly impact the production of secondary pollutants. The total BVOC emissions in PRD increased twofold due to afforestation since the early 1990s, which tended to cause a 0.9–4.6 ppb increment in surface O3 over the downwind areas. The global environment is continuously changing, posing a substantial influence on regional air quality. Our future focus is to understand the potential environmental impacts of global changes through dynamic downscaling and coupling of global climate models, vegetation dynamics models, and regional air quality models.


Land-cover changes Urban heat island effect China 


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© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Atmospheric Sciences, CMA-NJU Joint Laboratory for Climate Prediction Studies, Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Climate ChangeNanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science and EngineeringPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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