Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-173
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-173

  23 Jul 2021

23 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Land Management Contributes significantly to observed Vegetation Browning in Syria during 2001–2018

Tiexi Chen1, Renjie Guo1, Xiaogang He2, Qingyun Yan3, Shengjie Zhou1, Xin Chen1, Chuanzhuang Liang1, Xueqiong Wei1, and Han Dolman4 Tiexi Chen et al.
  • 1Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disaster, School of Geographical Sciences, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
  • 2National University of Singapore Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 21 Lower Kent Ridge Road
  • 3School of Remote Sensing and Geomatics Engineering, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
  • 4Department of Earth Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1081 HV, The Netherlands

Abstract. Climate change and human activities have significant impacts on terrestrial vegetation. Syria is a typical arid region with a water-limited ecosystem and has experienced severe social unrest over the last decades. In this study, changes in vegetation and potential drivers in Syria are investigated. By using an enhanced vegetation index (EVI), a general browning trend is found in Syria during 2001–2018 with the EVI decreasing at a rate of −0.8 × 10−3 yr−1 (p < 0.1). The decrease of the EVI is mainly found in the north region, whereas the west region still maintains an increasing trend. The residual analysis indicates that besides precipitation, human activities also contribute significantly to the EVI decrease, which is confirmed by the decrease in rainfall use efficiency. In order to reach a more reliable conclusion, a comparative analysis is carried out in the Khabur River Basin where croplands are widely distributed in adjacent regions of Syria and Turkey. The time series of the EVIs over these two regions are highly correlated (r = 0.8027, p < 0.001), indicating that both regions are affected by similar climate forcing. However, vegetation in Syria and Turkey illustrates contrary browning (−3 × 10−3 yr−1, p < 0.01) and greening trends (4.5 × 10−3 yr−1, p < 0.01), respectively. Relative reports have reported that social unrest had induced insufficient irrigation and lack of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and field managements. Therefore, we concluded that the decline of vegetation in the north Syria is driven by the change of land managements.

Tiexi Chen et al.

Status: open (until 22 Oct 2021)

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Tiexi Chen et al.

Tiexi Chen et al.

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Short summary
Currently people are very concerned about the vegetation changes and the driving factors, including natural and anthropogenic drivers. In this study, a general browning trend is found in Syria during 2001–2018 indicated by vegetation index. We found that land management caused by social unrest is the main cause of this browning phenomenon. The mechanism initially reported here highlights the importance of land management impacts at the regional scale.
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