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Evaluation of anthropogenic and climatic impacts on lake size variation is important for maintaining ecosystem integrity and sustaining societal development. We assumed that climate and human activity are the only drivers of lake-size variation and are independent of each other. We then evaluated anthropogenic and climatic effects on hydrological processes, using a multivariate linear model. Macro-economic data were used to describe the anthropogenic impact on lake surface area in our approach. Ebinur Lake is a shallow, closed, saline lake in arid northwest China; it has shrunk at a rapid rate over the past half century. Using our new method, we explored temporal trends of anthropogenic and climatic impacts on the lake over the past 50 years. Assessment indices indicate that the model represents observed data quite well. Compared with the reference period of 1955-1960, impacts of climate change across the catchment were generally positive with respect to lake area, except for the period from 1961 to 1970. Human activity was responsible for a reduction in lake surface area of 286.8 km2 over the last 50 years. Our approach, which uses economic variables to describe the anthropogenic impact on lake surface area, enables us to explain the lake responses to climate change and human activities quantitatively.
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