Land use has changed dramatically in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region because of rapid economic growth and human disturbances. However, little information is available about the medium- and long-term land use changes in this region. The effects of ecological recovery policies have also been evaluated rarely. In this study, we employed the self-organizing map neural network method to identify the land cover changes in Inner Mongolia between 2000 and 2014. MOD13Q1, Landsat, and DMSP/OLS night-time light data were used as the data resources. The dynamic change map was characterized using the grid cell method. The results showed that urban area of Inner Mongolia increased by more than five times during the 15-year study period, while the mining area also increased. In addition, 35.3% of the farmland was changed into grassland, which may have been caused by the “Grain to Green” policy. The most significant environmental issue in Inner Mongolia is the loss of wetland. >40% of the wetland was converted into other land use types between 2000 and 2014. Grassland increased by 6.05%, but areas of open water and woodland remained about the same. In terms of the geographical distribution, cropland increased in the eastern and middle parts of the region. The transformation from wetland to grassland mainly occurred in the north. Grassland degradation occurred in the west. Thus, environmental policy has resulted in some ecological improvements in Inner Mongolia. However, new environmental problems associated with rapid economic development should be addressed in a timely manner.
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