Historical landscape dynamics of Inner Mongolia: patterns, drivers, and impacts

Jianguo Wu, Qing Zhang, Ang Li, Cunzhu Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Context: Understanding the causes and consequences of land use and land cover change in drylands is crucial for global sustainability. Inner Mongolia consists of arid and semiarid ecosystems of global importance. Objectives: Our main goal was twofold: to review the patterns and drivers of land use and land cover change in Inner Mongolia, and to discuss ecological impacts and strategies for promoting landscape and regional sustainability. Methods: We took an interdisciplinary and retrospective approach, based on historical records and remote sensing data. Results: Inner Mongolia has evolved from an ocean to a forested region and then to a dryland area in the past millions of years. As a cradle of Chinese civilization, Inner Mongolia has experienced a series of land transitions from localized primitive agriculture that occurred in prehistoric times to broad-scale nomadic pastoralism that lasted for a few 1000 years, and to sedentary pastoralism with increasing agriculture and urbanization since the 1960s. The general land use pattern has long been shaped by the interactions between nomadic pastoralism and agrarian culture. The major drivers of land use and land cover change include: climate, demography, socioeconomic structures, institutional changes, and technological innovations. Conclusions: The landscapes of Inner Mongolia have evolved historically through several phases, and the profound and unsustainable landscape transformations during the past 50 years have been driven primarily by land use policies. Strategies based on landscape sustainability science are needed to curb ecosystem degradation and promote sustainability in the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1579-1598
Number of pages20
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 30 2015


  • Grasslands
  • Inner Mongolia
  • Land use and land cover change
  • Landscape history
  • Mongolian Plateau
  • Rangeland degradation and sustainability
  • Socioeconomic drivers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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