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Journal of Arid Land  2022, Vol. 14 Issue (7): 705-718    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-022-0055-3
Research article     
Impact of land use/land cover types on surface humidity in northern China in the early 21st century
JIN Junfang1, YIN Shuyan1,*(), YIN Hanmin2
1School of Geography and Tourism, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an 710119, China
2Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
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In the context of global change, it is essential to promote the rational development and utilization of land resources, improve the quality of regional ecological environment, and promote the harmonious development of human and nature for the regional sustainability. We identified land use/land cover types in northern China from 2001 to 2018 with ENVI images and ArcGIS software. Meteorological data were selected from 292 stations in northern China, the potential evapotranspiration was calculated with the Penman-Monteith formula, and reanalysis humidity and observed humidity data were obtained. The reanalysis minus observation (RMO, i.e., the difference between reanalysis humidity and observed humidity) can effectively characterize the impact of different land use/land cover types (forestland, grassland, cultivated land, construction land, water body and unused land) on surface humidity in northern China in the early 21st century. The results showed that from 2001 to 2018, the area of forestland expanded (increasing by approximately 1.80×104 km2), while that of unused land reduced (decreasing by approximately 5.15×104 km2), and the regional ecological environment was improved. Consequently, land surface in most areas of northern China tended to be wetter. The contributions of land use/land cover types to surface humidity changes were related to the quality of the regional ecological environment. The contributions of the six land use/land cover types to surface humidity were the highest in northeastern region of northern China, with a better ecological environment, and the lowest in northwestern region, with a fragile ecological environment. Surface humidity was closely related to the variation in regional vegetation coverage; when the regional vegetation coverage with positive (negative) contributions expanded (reduced), the land surface became wetter. The positive contributions of forestland and water body to surface humidity were the greatest. Unused land and construction land were associated with the most serious negative contributions to surface humidity. Affected by the regional distribution pattern of vegetation, surface humidity in different seasons decreased from east to west in northern China. The seasonal variation in surface humidity was closely related to the growth of vegetation: surface humidity was the highest in summer, followed by autumn and spring, and the lowest in winter. According to the results, surface humidity is expected to increase in northeastern region of northern China, decrease in northern region, and likely increase in northwestern region.

Key wordssurface humidity      land use/land cover change      reanalysis minus observation      Penman-Monteith formula      climate change      northern China     
Received: 05 November 2021      Published: 31 July 2022
Corresponding Authors: * YIN Shuyan (E-mail:
Cite this article:

JIN Junfang, YIN Shuyan, YIN Hanmin. Impact of land use/land cover types on surface humidity in northern China in the early 21st century. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(7): 705-718.

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Fig. 1 Location of the study area (northern China) and spatial distribution of meteorological stations. SAR, special administrative region.
Fig. 2 Moving average time series of the SWI and ARH (a) and RMO (b) from 1991 to 2018 in northern China. SWI, surface wetness index; ARH, atmospheric relative humidity; RMO, reanalysis minus observation.
Fig. 3 Average RMO values for different land use/land cover types in different regions of northern China during the period of 2001-2018
Fig. 4 Spatial distribution of land use/land cover change (LUCC) in northern China during the period of 2001-2018. (a), expansion of land use /land cover types; (b), reduction of land use /land cover types. Blank areas in northern China are the areas with no change in land use /land cover types.
Region Change in area (×104 km2)
Forestland Grassland Construction land Cultivated land Water body Unused land
Northeastern region 0.67 -1.04 0.14 0.09 0.06 0.08
Northern region 1.10 -0.90 0.95 0.41 -0.02 -1.53
Northwestern region 0.03 1.36 2.23 0.01 0.08 -3.70
Table 1 Area changes for different land use/land cover types in northern China during the period of 2001-2018
Region Province/Autonomous region/Municipality Area growth index (%)
Forestland Grassland Cultivated
Northeastern region Heilongjiang 5.58 -9.41 1.86 6.96 18.70 69.47
Jilin 1.73 -16.19 6.20 11.00 34.40 47.30
Liaoning 2.73 12.98 -8.58 13.89 0.98 25.16
Northern region Inner Mongolia 15.90 0.41 16.44 5.64 -12.45 -6.42
Beijing and Tianjin -2.33 9.72 -12.64 13.13 4.89 21.42
Hebei 20.53 2.77 -5.49 17.23 0.78 63.22
Shandong 71.49 7.70 -2.82 20.87 1.16 38.05
Shanxi 61.62 -15.89 35.63 6.17 39.67 16.29
Northwestern region Shaanxi 2.39 -1.67 8.63 6.63 -16.55 -50.38
Gansu 19.99 2.32 17.12 1.43 18.59 -4.83
Ningxia 129.02 -2.58 21.69 17.85 -11.11 -61.37
Qinghai 38.49 4.94 -13.17 1.52 9.89 -3.46
Xinjiang -17.40 3.10 55.69 0.58 7.34 -3.09
Table 2 Area growth index values for different land use/land cover types in different regions of northern China during the period of 2001-2018
Fig. 5 Spatial pattern of the RMO trend changes in northern China during the period of 2001-2018
Fig. 6 Spatial distribution of the RMO in spring (a), summer (b), autumn (c) and winter (d) in northern China during the period of 2001-2018
Fig. 7 Spatial distribution of natural vegetation in northern China during the period of 2001-2018
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