The influence of natural and human factors in the shrinking of the Ebinur Lake, Xinjiang, China, during the 1972–2013 period


The Ebinur Lake is a closed inland lake located within the arid region of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the northwestern part of China, near the Kazakhstan border. The shrinkage of the lake area is believed to be caused by ecological environmental deterioration and has become an important restraining factor for the social development of the local population. Of all the lakes in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the Ebinur Lake is the most severely impacted water body. The lake has undergone change in size naturally for over thousands of years due to natural causes. However, the authors observed the dramatic changes in the freshwater resources of this region from the aerial images from 1972 to 2013. Thus, this paper traces and analyzes the change in the Ebinur Lake surface area in the past 41 years. A set of six satellite images acquired between 1972 and 2013 was employed to map the change in the surface area of the Ebinur Lake using the water index approach. The authors applied the traditional normalized difference water index (NDWI) and the modified normalized difference water index (MNDWI) to quantify the change in the water body area of the Ebinur Lake during the study period. The results indicate that the lake area has experienced a dramatic decrease of 31.4 % from 1972 to 2013. The paper also examines the natural processes and human activities that may have contributed to the decrease in the lake area. The results show that the decrease in total lake area appears to coincide with periods of rapid land reclamation in the study area. Moreover, the uncontrolled land reclamation activities, such as irrigation, can increase the sedimentation in the Ebinur Lake thereby reducing the lake size. Reduction of the lake area has a negative ecological impact on the environment and on human life and property. The lake area is the most important factor to ensure the environment of the watershed and the key index to measure the environment balance.

Publication Title

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment