Competition between biogeochemical drivers and land-cover changes determines urban greening or browning

Long Li, Wenfeng Zhan, Weimin Ju, Josep Peñuelas, Zaichun Zhu, Shushi Peng, Xiaolin Zhu, Zihan Liu, Yuyu Zhou, Jiufeng Li, Jiameng Lai, Fan Huang, Gaofei Yin, Yongshuo Fu, Manchun Li, Chao Yu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Urban vegetation, a harbinger of future global vegetation change, is controlled by complex urban environments. The urban-rural gradient in vegetation greenness trends and their responses to biogeochemical drivers (e.g. elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration and climate warming) and land-cover changes, however, remain unclear. Here we used satellite-derived enhanced vegetation index to examine the greenness trends for 1500-plus cities in China for 2000–2019. We developed a conceptual framework to differentiate between the contributions of four key drivers to the greenness trends: two biogeochemical drivers, a background biogeochemical driver (BBD) and an urban biogeochemical driver (UBD), and two drivers of land-cover changes, urban expansion or densification (UED) and urban green recovery (UGR). We find that the greening trends gradually decreased from urban cores to urban new towns and then to browning trends in urban fringes. The significant greening in urban cores was mainly contributed by BBD (25.6%) and UBD (52.3%). While the minor greening in urban new towns was contributed by both BBD (33.1%) and UBD (24.1%) and weakened by UED (−39.7%). The UED (−64.4%) dominated the browning in urban fringes. These results suggest that biogeochemical drivers and land-cover changes jointly regulated the urban-rural gradient in greenness trends, which contributes to the assessment of future global vegetation change driven by complex environmental changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113481
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023


  • Urban effect
  • Urban-rural gradients
  • Urbanization
  • Vegetation greenness trend
  • Vegetation index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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