BEIJING — The total lake area in China has increased by 9 percent over the past five decades, according to a recent study.
Researchers from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences used historical maps and Landsat satellite images to produce a comprehensive China lake dataset from the 1960s to 2015.
Results showed that the total number of lakes (those above 1 square kilometer) in China increased from 2,127 to 2,554, with the area expanded from 68,537 square kilometers to 74,395 square kilometers during that period.
Lakes are sensitive to climate change and human activities and are indicators of environmental change. China has abundant lake resources but uneven distribution. Understanding long-term evolution, regional differences and driving factors of lakes in China is of great significance to water resource management and sustainable development.
Lake areas in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Xinjiang and Northeast Plain have increased by 15 percent, 27 percent, and 37 percent respectively while lake areas in Inner Mongolia decreased by 22 percent.
The study also quantitatively analyzed the driving factors of lake change from the perspectives of climate change and human activities.
Climate factors have played a dominant role in lake changes across China, while human activities also have an impact. Most of the 333 lakes that disappeared were in the eastern area with significant human activities.
This study can help improve water resource management and land-use planning throughout China.
The study was published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment.