Linking wind erosion to ecosystem services in drylands: a landscape ecological approach

Yuanyuan Zhao, Jianguo Wu, Chunyang He, Guodong Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Context: Wind erosion is a widespread environmental problem in the world’s arid landscapes, which threatens the sustainability of ecosystem services in these regions. Objectives: We investigated how wind erosion and key ecosystem services changed concurrently and what major biophysical and socioeconomic factors were responsible for these changes in a dryland area of China. Methods: Based on remote sensing data, field measurements, and modeling, we quantified the spatiotemporal patterns of both wind erosion and four key ecosystem services (soil conservation, crop production, meat production, and carbon storage) in the Mu Us Sandy Land in northern China during 2000–2013. Linear regression was used to explore possible relationships between wind erosion and ecosystem services. Results: From 2000 to 2013, wind erosion decreased by as much as 60% and the four ecosystem services all increased substantially. These trends were attributable to vegetation recovery due mainly to government-aided ecological restoration projects and, to a lesser degree, slightly increasing precipitation and decreasing wind speed during the second half of the study period. The maximum soil loss dropped an order of magnitude when vegetation cover increased from 10% to 30%, halved again when vegetation increased from 30 to 40%, and showed little change when vegetation increased beyond 60%. Conclusions: Our study indicates that vegetation cover has nonlinear and threshold effects on wind erosion through constraining the maximum soil loss, which further affects dryland ecosystem services. These findings have important implications for ecological restoration and ecosystem management in dryland landscapes in China and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2399-2417
Number of pages19
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Constraint effect
  • Drylands
  • Ecosystem services
  • Mu Us Sandy Land, Inner Mongolia
  • Wind erosion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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