The Aral Sea, located in Central Asia, has faced significant challenges due to climate change and human activities. These factors have led to a decrease in the surface area of the sea, resulting in a regional ecological crisis. The decline in the Aral Sea has had a profound impact on key ecosystem services in the region.

A recent study published in Scientific Reports by researchers from the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences analyzed the changes in four key ecosystem services in the Aral Sea basin. The study used the Future Land Use Simulation Model (FLUS) and Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs (InVEST) models to simulate land use dynamics and ecosystem service provision in the region.

From 1995 to 2020, the study found significant changes in land use in the Aral Sea basin. These changes included a reduction in water area by 49.59% and a rapid increase in urban areas by 504.65%. Additionally, there was a continuous decline in cropland, forestland, and grassland, with a simultaneous expansion of bare land and urban areas.

In future projections from 2021 to 2100, researchers found a substantial loss of ecosystem services across the Aral Sea basin under the SSP245 scenario, which represents an agricultural degradation scenario. The projections also indicated changes in the relationships between habitat quality, water quantity, and soil conservation.

According to Prof. Yu Yang, the corresponding author of the study, restoration plans for the Aral Sea region must be carefully designed due to the synergies and tradeoffs that exist between different ecosystem service combinations. Understanding the dynamic changes in ecosystem services in the Aral Sea basin is crucial for formulating effective land management plans that consider ecosystem services.

The impact of climate change and human activities on the Aral Sea basin has led to significant changes in ecosystem services. The findings of this study provide valuable insights into the challenges facing the region and highlight the importance of sustainable land management practices to preserve ecosystem services in the Aral Sea basin.

Earth

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