Vulnerability of the Human-Environment System in Arid Regions: The Case of Xilingol Grassland in Northern China
Guangcai Xu1, Muyi Kang2, Marc Metzger3, Yuan Jiang2
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1Institute for Urban Agriculture Research, Beijing University of Agriculture;
Beijing Base for New Countryside Research, 102206 Beijing, China
2State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Beijing Normal University,
College of Resources Science and Technology, Beijing Normal University, 100875 Beijing, China
3Centre for the Study of Environmental Change and Sustainability (CECS), School of GeoSciences,
University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, EH8 9XP Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Pol. J. Environ. Stud. 2014;23(5):1773–1785
The loss of biological and economic productivity in the dryland regions hinders the prospects of reducing poverty. The method of vulnerability assessment has been broadly employed to evaluate the potential impact of environmental change and pinpoint the future adaptations on regional or global levels, which could help in the identification and development of coping strategies for dryland regions. The present study provides a vulnerability assessment for the semiarid grasslands of the Xilingol, Mongolia Plateau – a typical dryland area that has been suffering from land degradation for a long period. An exposure-sensitivity index was calculated using Spatial Principal Component Analysis for 19 climate and anthropogenic indicators that had a strong correlation with observed grassland degradation. This indicator was compared with an adaptive capacity index, constructed using principal component analysis for 27 relevant variables from the aspects of location advantage, economic level, resources, and social efficiency. The results show that the northeastern part of Xilingol is least vulnerable due to more favorable and available natural resources, including high precipitation, productive grassland, etc., and greater economic development. By contrast, the areas in the southwest, with harsh environmental conditions and a poor socio-economic infrastructure, have the greatest vulnerability. These regions are in dire need for targeted adaptation measures to further decline in human well-being. Through analyzing the results of SPCA and PCA analysis, the entry points for vulnerability reduction were distinguished and the pertinent suggestions were clearly brought forward from the aspects of reducing exposure- sensitivity and improving adaptive capacity.