Responses of dune activity and desertification in China to global warming in the twenty-first century
Most areas of arid and semiarid China are covered by aeolian sand dunes, sand sheets, and desert steppes, and the existence of the nearly 80 million people who live in this region could be seriously jeopardized if climate change increases desertification. However, the expected trends in desertification during the 21st century are poorly understood. In the present study, we selected the ECHAM4 and HadCM3 global climate models (after comparing them with the results of the GFDL-R30, CGCM2, and CSIRO-Mk2b models) and used simulations of a dune mobility index under IPCC SRES climate scenarios A1FI, A2a, A2b, A2c, B1a, B2a, and B2b to estimate future trends in dune activity and desertification in China. Although uncertainties in climate predictions mean that there is still far to go before we can develop a comprehensive dune activity estimation system, HadCM3 simulations with most greenhouse forcing scenarios showed decreased desertification in most western region of arid and semiarid China by 2039, but increased desertification thereafter, whereas ECHAM4 simulation results showed that desertification will increase during this period. Inhabitants of thecentral region will benefit from reversed desertification from 2010 to 2099, whereas inhabitants of the eastern region will suffer from increased desertification from 2010 to 2099. From 2010 to 2039, most regions will not be significantly affected by desertification, but from 2040 to 2099, the environments of the western and eastern regions will deteriorate due to the significant effects of global warming (particularly the interaction between precipitation and potential evapotranspiration), leading to decreased livestock and grain yields and possibly threatening China's food security.