International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Morgan Ruelle


Vegetation is an important part of ecosystems, and the use of vegetation coverage as an indicator to study the spatio-temporal dynamics of regional vegetation is necessary for ecosystem health evaluation. The urban heat island effect can change the structure and functions of urban ecosystems, and affect the climate, hydrology, atmospheric environment, and energy metabolism of cities, as well as the health of residents. Using Beijing as a case study, this research generates vegetation coverage maps using remote sensing imagery from 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018. This study indirectly analyzes the urban heat island effect through spatio-temporal changes in vegetation cover. These analyses offer three key findings. First, vegetation coverage in Beijing from 1998 to 2018 experienced an oscillating upward trend, indicating that the urban heat island effect was weakening. Second, the vegetation coverage in Beijing exhibited a concentric structure, which increased from the central area to the surrounding area, indicating that the urban heat island effect gradually weakens from the inside to the outside of the city. Third, from 1998 to 2008, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) of the areas outside the Sixth Ring Road and inside the Third Ring Road was increasing, therefore the urban heat island effect in these areas was weakening. Conversely, NDVI was decreasing between Sixth Ring Road and Third Ring Road; these areas experienced an increase in the urban heat island effect.



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