Using remote sensing to assess impacts of land management policies in the Ordos rangelands in China
Implementation of land management policies influences land use and hence causes environmental change. Taking the Ordos rangelands in China as a case study, this paper explores the potential of remote sensing to assess in dryland areas the impacts of policies on the environment. Thirteen Landsat images of the period 1978 2010 were acquired and those corresponding to the starting dates of implementation of different policies were selected for land-cover change analysis; others were used to check the detected change and track the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) trajectory matched with time series of meteorological data for calibration of natural response of rangelands to rainfall. The results indicate that policy impacts are complex and include both positive and negative aspects depending on the locality in space. On one hand, policies have aroused the enthusiasm of people in agricultural production and sandcontrol leading to the recovery of about 2618 km2 of desertified rangeland and sandy land, and economic growth, on the other hand, provoked vegetation degradation with an accumulated area of 2439 km2 when policies cannot reconcile the conflict between environmental protection and the interest of rural people. However, degradation is not absolute and can be mitigated by the implementation of rational policies.