The dryland ecosystem is the dominant component of the global terrestrial ecosystem since arid regions occupy 45% of the earth's land area and feed 38% of the world's population. The stability and sustainable development of the dryland ecosystem are critical for achieving the millennium development goal (MDG) in the arid and semiarid areas. However, there is still no scientific guideline for measuring and conserving the health and productivity of dryland ecosystems. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to develop the scientific conceptual framework of defining, monitoring and evaluating the ecological quality of dryland ecosystems. The ecological quality of dryland ecosystems is represented by a system of comprehensive indicators that are each extracted from the ecological elements, and structural and functional indices of the ecosystem. These indicators can be monitored by integrating satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles with ground-based sensor networks at the scale of either observational sites or regional scales. Finally, the ecological quality can be evaluated by evaluation models based on the normalized index values and their thresholds. This paper presents a conceptual framework for monitoring and evaluating the ecological quality of drylands, which provides a way of advancing the monitoring, diagnosis, and evaluation of the ecological quality of the dryland ecosystems.
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Vol. 10 • No. 2