The Loess Plateau Region of China is located at about 37 degrees north latitude in the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River, spanning an area of approximately 647,250 square kilometers and covering parts of five provinces. The region is home to more 50 million people, and the Yellow River and its tributaries provide water that is crucial for agricultural and industrial livelihoods, as well various cultural resources. The Loess Plateau Region is situated just northwest of the East Asian monsoon (EAM) zone. The climate is a typical continental monsoonal climate, and the advance of the EAM each year causes the region to have distinctive wet and dry seasons. The climate in the region ranges from arid/semiarid to sub-humid, and averages about 140 mm of rainfall in the northwest to 800 mm in the southeast. Approximately70 % of annual precipitation falls between June and September in the form of heavy storms, leaving many crops vulnerable to drought in the early growing season.
The Loess Plateau Region has been identified as one of the most agriculturally vulnerable regions to climate change in China. Climate change is predicted to cause increases in average annual temperature and drought frequency, changes in the timing of rainfall, decreased water availability, and increased soil erosion. Additionally, intense precipitation events are likely to increase, while decreased runoff from the Yellow River is expected to lead to water shortages that will be made worse by a growing population.
While much research has investigated how the climate will change in the Loess Plateau Region, the social dimensions of climate change have received much less attention. We have conducted hundreds of household surveys and interviews with smallholders in Gansu, Ningxia, and Shaanxi provinces to understand the multi-scalar social-ecological processes that shape their vulnerability to climate change, as well as their ability to adapt.