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Research Project on

Population Changes and Land Degradation in Xinjiang of China

Principal Investigator: Jiang Leiwen
Institute of Population Research, Peking University

Collaborators: Tong Yufen
Xinjiang University

Zhao Zhijie and Li Tianhong
Institute of Environmental Study, Peking University

Asian MetaCentre for Population and
Sustainable Development Analysis

Sponsored by: The Wellcome Trust
United Kingdom


Xinjiang in western China is a typical arid region with a vulnerable ecosystem in which environmental deterioration is often irreversible. In the past five decades, its population increased by more than four times, in which migration played a very important role. Population growth and reckless land reclamation, resource exploitation, and water use induced serious problems of land degradation, and seriously affect human wellbeing.

Taking the advantage of the existence of high quality data, this research will study the historical pattern of population and land interactions in the region. Firstly, a pilot case study will conduct in Akesu Prefecture, by applying remote sensing and GIS techniques to map the evolution of land degradation and human settlement over time. Combining the remotely sensed data and ground data, the relationships between land degradation, environmental displacement, poverty and human health will be determined by doing a statistical analysis at township level. Secondly, time series data on demographic, socio-economic changes and land degradation will be collected for the whole Xinjiang Region and for sub-regions. Multilevel analysis and time series analysis methods will be utilized to statistically study, at county level, the interactions between population changes, socio-economic development, and aspects of human wellbeing.

Furthermore, the principle factors and feedbacks of population changes and land degradation will be included and considered in a population-development-environment (PDE) framework. Exploiting a system dynamics approach, the population, development and environment modules will be integrated, and the interactions between population changes and land degradation will be systematically and dynamically studied. Using alternative long-term scenarios based on the pilot case study and the whole province of Xinjiang, plausible paths of future changes in population, land degradation and human well being will be simulated. This research will improve our understandings of dynamic process of population and land interactions in general, and in arid regions in particular, and gain insights for informing policy-makers in order to avoid environment disasters and deterioration of human wellbeing.


Jiang Leiwen, Tong Yufen, Zhao Zhijie, Li Tianhong, Han Wei (2003) ‘Impacts of Population Migration on Land Degradation in Tarim River Basin, Xinjiang of China’, Paper presented at the 2003 Population Association of America Meeting.


Interim Report 2003





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