Effects of human activities on the eco-environment in the middle Heihe River Basin based on an extended environmental Kuznets curve model
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With rapid socio-economic development over the past three decades in China, adverse effects of human activities on the natural ecosystem are particularly serious in arid regions where landscape ecology is fragile due to limited water resources and considerable interannual climate variability. Data on land use, surface and ground water, climate, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita from the middle Heihe River Basin were used to (i) examine changes in water consumption, land use composition, and vegetation cover; (ii) evaluate the effectiveness of short-term management strategies for environmental protection and improvement, and (iii) apply and extend the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) framework to describe the relationship between economic development and environmental quality in terms of the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). The results showed that with rapid development of agriculture and economy, land use change for the period 1986–2000 was characterized by the expansion of constructed oases, considerable contraction of oasis-desert transitional zone and natural oases. This has led to a decrease in ecosystem stability. Since 2001, effective basin management has brought about improved environment conditions, with a more optimal hierarchical structure of vegetation cover. The original EKC model could not explain most of the observed variation in NDVI (R2 = 0.37). Including additional climate variables, the extended EKC model to explain the observed NDVI was much improved (R2 = 0.78), suggesting that inclusion of biophysical factors is a necessary additional dimension in the relationship between economic development and environmental quality for arid regions with great climate variability. The relationship between GDP per capita and NDVI, with the effect of precipitation and temperature taken into consideration, was adequately described by an N-shaped curve, suggesting that the relationship between society and the environment followed a process of promotion, contradiction, and coordination.
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Earth Sciences not elsewhere classified