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Journal of Arid Land  2022, Vol. 14 Issue (11): 1181-1195    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-022-0077-x
Review article     
An over review of desertification in Xinjiang, Northwest China
YU Xiang1,2, LEI Jiaqiang1,2,*(), GAO Xin1,2
1State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
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Desertification research in arid and semi-arid regions has always been actively pursued. In China, the problem of desertification in Xinjiang has also received extensive attention. Due to its unique geography, many scholars have conducted corresponding research on the desertification status of Xinjiang. In this paper, we comprehensively reviewed desertification in Xinjiang, and compared the underlying mechanisms of desertification and the status of desertification conditions after the implementation of ecological control projects. On a larger scale, desertification in Xinjiang can be divided into soil salinization inside oases and sandy desertification on the edges of oases. Human activities are considered the main cause of desertification, but natural factors also contribute to varying degrees. Research on the mechanisms of desertification has effectively curbed the development of desertification, but unreasonable use of land resources accelerates the risk of desertification. For desertification control, there are several key points. First, desertification monitoring and the early warning of desertification expansion should be strengthened. Second, monitoring and reversing soil salinization also play an important role in the interruption of desertification process. It is very effective to control soil salinization through biological and chemical methods. Third, the management of water resources is also essential, because unreasonable utilization of water resources is one of the main reasons for the expansion of desertification in Xinjiang. Due to the unreasonable utilization of water resources, the lower reaches of the Tarim River are cut off, which leads to a series of vicious cycles, such as the deterioration of ecological environment on both sides of the river and the worsening of desertification. However, in recent years, various desertification control projects implemented in Xinjiang according to the conditions of different regions have achieved remarkable results. For future studies, research on the stability of desert-oasis transition zone is also significantly essential, because such investigations can help to assess the risk of degradation and control desertification on a relatively large scale.

Key wordsdesertification      soil salinization      sandy desertification      desertification control      soil wind erosion      human activities      Tarim Basin     
Received: 29 June 2022      Published: 30 November 2022
Corresponding Authors: LEI Jiaqiang     E-mail:
Cite this article:

YU Xiang, LEI Jiaqiang, GAO Xin. An over review of desertification in Xinjiang, Northwest China. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(11): 1181-1195.

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Fig. 1 Spatial distribution of desertified land and non-desertified land in Xinjiang in 1980 (a), 1990 (b), 2000 (c), 2010 (d), and 2020 (e). Note that the figures are based on the standard map (新S(2021)023) of the Map Service System ( marked by the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Platform for Common Geospatial Information Services, and the standard map has not been modified.
Fig. 2 Spatial distribution of changes in desertified land and non-desertified land as well as land revision and degradation in Xinjiang during the periods of 1980-1990 (a), 1990-2000 (b), 2000-2010 (c), and 2010-2020 (d)
Period Area/percentage NDL→NDL
1980-1990 Area (km2) 628,108 995,226 6301 9519
Percentage (%) 38.32 60.72 0.38 0.58
1990-2000 Area (km2) 620,493 988,986 17,116 12,543
Percentage (%) 37.85 60.34 1.04 0.77
2000-2010 Area (km2) 631,617 1,006,108 1435 5249
Percentage (%) 38.41 61.18 0.09 0.32
2010-2020 Area (km2) 501,230 858,776 135,490 143,353
Percentage (%) 30.58 52.40 8.27 8.75
Table 1 Transition matrix of land desertification in Xinjiang from 1980 to 2020
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