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Journal of Arid Land  2022, Vol. 14 Issue (3): 245-261    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-022-0062-4
Research article     
Effects of climate change and land use/cover change on the volume of the Qinghai Lake in China
WANG Hongwei1,*(), QI Yuan1, LIAN Xihong2, ZHANG Jinlong1, YANG Rui1, ZHANG Meiting3
1Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing of Gansu Province, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
2School of Resource and Environmental Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430079, China
3Qinghai Ecological and Environmental Monitoring Center, Xining 810007, China
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Qinghai Lake is the largest saline lake in China. The change in the lake volume is an indicator of the variation in water resources and their response to climate change on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) in China. The present study quantitatively evaluated the effects of climate change and land use/cover change (LUCC) on the lake volume of the Qinghai Lake in China from 1958 to 2018, which is crucial for water resources management in the Qinghai Lake Basin. To explore the effects of climate change and LUCC on the Qinghai Lake volume, we analyzed the lake level observation data and multi-period land use/land cover (LULC) data by using an improved lake volume estimation method and Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs (InVEST) model. Our results showed that the lake level decreased at the rate of 0.08 m/a from 1958 to 2004 and increased at the rate of 0.16 m/a from 2004 to 2018. The lake volume decreased by 105.40×108 m3 from 1958 to 2004, with the rate of 2.24×108 m3/a, whereas it increased by 74.02×108 m3 from 2004 to 2018, with the rate of 4.66×108 m3/a. Further, the climate of the Qinghai Lake Basin changed from warm-dry to warm-humid. From 1958 to 2018, the increase in precipitation and the decrease in evaporation controlled the change of the lake volume, which were the main climatic factors affecting the lake volume change. From 1977 to 2018, the measured water yield showed an "increase-decrease-increase" fluctuation in the Qinghai Lake Basin. The effects of climate change and LUCC on the measured water yield were obviously different. From 1977 to 2018, the contribution rate of LUCC was -0.76% and that of climate change was 100.76%; the corresponding rates were 8.57% and 91.43% from 1977 to 2004, respectively, and -4.25% and 104.25% from 2004 to 2018, respectively. Quantitative analysis of the effects and contribution rates of climate change and LUCC on the Qinghai Lake volume revealed the scientific significance of climate change and LUCC, as well as their individual and combined effects in the Qinghai Lake Basin and on the QTP. This study can contribute to the water resources management and regional sustainable development of the Qinghai Lake Basin.

Key wordsclimate change      land use/cover change      water yield      lake volume      contribution rate      Qinghai Lake Basin      Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau     
Received: 11 August 2021      Published: 31 March 2022
Corresponding Authors: WANG Hongwei     E-mail:
Cite this article:

WANG Hongwei, QI Yuan, LIAN Xihong, ZHANG Jinlong, YANG Rui, ZHANG Meiting. Effects of climate change and land use/cover change on the volume of the Qinghai Lake in China. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(3): 245-261.

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Fig. 1 Overview of the Qinghai Lake Basin. DEM, digital elevation model.
Fig. 2 Changes in the annual lake level of the Qinghai Lake from 1958 to 2018
Fig. 3 Fitting curve of the relationship between the lake area and lake level of the Qinghai Lake. A, lake area; L, lake level; N, the number of years. Shaded areas represent 95% confidence intervals.
Fig. 4 Lake volume change curves of the Qinghai Lake from 1958 to 2018. The cumulative lake volume change is the change in the lake volume in every year relative to the year 1958. The yearly lake volume change is the change in the lake volume in every year relative to the previous year.
Fig. 5 Changes in the climatic factors of the Qinghai Lake Basin from 1958 to 2018. (a), temperature; (b), precipitation; (c), evaporation; (d), relative humidity; (e), wind speed; (f), sunshine duration.
Fig. 6 Spatial distribution of land use/land cover (LULC) of the Qinghai Lake Basin in 1977 (a), 1987 (b), 2000 (c), 2004 (d), 2010 (e), and 2018 (f)
LULC Area (km2)
1977 1987 2000 2004 2010 2018
Cultivated land Paddy field 0.65 2.25 0.66 0.64 0.62 0.21
Dryland 300.98 416.31 450.74 453.18 453.30 450.33
Woodland Forest land 64.72 63.87 63.09 62.99 62.99 63.89
Shrubland 324.28 320.42 306.79 312.12 309.03 332.45
Sparse woods 103.63 102.22 101.50 101.51 101.51 96.04
Grassland High coverage grassland 3409.73 3307.93 3216.48 3249.88 3255.08 3540.54
Moderate coverage grassland 8888.12 8876.67 8803.46 8774.94 8752.46 8431.20
Low coverage grassland 6508.78 6501.11 6579.98 6604.34 6612.59 6614.44
Water bodies Graff 443.23 449.55 443.82 443.05 442.69 455.59
Lake 4468.70 4346.80 4306.84 4277.01 4330.87 4528.26
Glaciers and snow cover 450.90 399.86 411.39 370.89 326.16 225.48
Bottomland 211.55 218.16 222.68 235.51 243.08 193.48
Construction land Urban land 1.05 1.89 3.05 3.51 6.47 12.83
Rural area 6.22 11.65 17.87 23.38 30.07 30.01
Other built land 0.14 0.20 0.47 0.62 1.71 15.39
Unused land Desert 499.15 602.32 647.75 640.22 568.42 503.03
Saline-alkali land 21.88 35.10 40.09 43.43 42.05 21.48
Wetland 2455.20 2478.85 2456.61 2450.53 2459.48 2445.39
Bare rock 3.85 3.85 3.85 3.85 6.20 4.90
Other unused land 1508.01 1531.77 1593.63 1619.15 1665.97 1705.84
Table 1 Areas of the land use/land cover (LULC) types in the Qinghai Lake Basin in 1977, 1987, 2000, 2004, 2010, and 2018
Fig. 7 Spatial distribution of the measured water yield of the Qinghai Lake Basin in 1977 (a), 1987 (b), 2000 (c), 2004 (d), 2010 (e), and 2018 (f)
Period Water yield change (×108 m3) Contribution rate (%)
Measured Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Rp Rl
1977-1987 5.67 5.61 0.57 90.78 9.22
1987-2000 -4.81 -4.97 0.90 122.11 -22.11
2000-2004 5.95 5.87 -0.86 117.17 -17.17
2004-2010 3.99 3.86 -0.45 113.20 -13.20
2010-2018 16.48 16.02 -0.36 102.30 -2.30
1977-2004 6.81 6.51 0.61 91.43 8.57
2004-2018 20.47 19.88 -0.81 104.25 -4.25
1977-2018 27.28 26.39 -0.20 100.76 -0.76
Table 2 Changes of the measured water yield under different scenarios and contribution rates of climate change and land use/cover change (LUCC) to the water yield of the Qinghai Lake Basin in different time periods
Climatic factor 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 1958-2004 2004-2018 1958-2018
Temperature -0.51 -0.40 -0.07 0.18 0.44 0.02 -0.14 0.11 0.29*
Precipitation 0.78** 0.67* 0.69* 0.63* 0.50 0.55 0.67** 0.58* 0.72**
Evaporation -0.67** -0.58 -0.88** -0.20 -0.37 -0.26 -0.64** -0.08 -0.66**
Relative humidity 0.66* 0.86** 0.75* 0.48 -0.52 0.62 0.56** 0.49 0.30*
Wind speed -0.13 -0.35 -0.66* -0.48 -0.24 -0.30 -0.31* -0.35 -0.55**
Sunshine duration -0.40 -0.78** -0.81** -0.26 -0.56 -0.27 -0.45** -0.21 -0.59**
Table 3 Pearson correlation coefficients of the lake volume change with different climatic factors in the Qinghai Lake Basin in different time periods
LULC Area Area change Measured water yield Measured water yield change
Cultivated land 0.54 -1.00* 0.37 0.30
Woodland -0.26 0.80 0.14 0.30
Grassland -0.89* 0.60 0.71 0.30
Water bodies -0.43 0.90* 0.03 0.50
Construction land 0.89* 0.70 0.71 0.90*
Unused land 0.37 -1.00* 0.71 0.50
Table 4 Spearman correlation coefficients of the lake volume change with the area and measured water yield of different LULC types
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