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

Tiexi Chen*, Renjie Guo, Qingyun Yan, Xin Chen, Shengjie Zhou, Chuanzhuang Liang, Xueqiong Wei, Han Dolman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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. Moreover, a paired land-use experiment (PLUE) 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 (rCombining double low line0.8027, 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. Relevant reports have noted that social unrest induced insufficient irrigation and lack of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and field management. Therefore, we concluded that the decline in vegetation in the north Syria is driven by the change of land management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1515-1525
Number of pages11
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Financial support. This research is supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (grant no. 2017YFB0504000), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 42161144003, 42130506 and 31570464).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Tiexi Chen et al.


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