Landsat ETM/TM data and an artificial neural network (ANN) were applied to analyse the expansion of the city of Xi'an and land use/cover change of its surrounding area between 2000 and 2003. Supervised classification and normalized difference barren index (NDBI) were used respectively to retrieve its urban boundary. Results showed that the urban area increased by an annual rate of 12.3%, with area expansion from 253.37 km2 in 2000 to 358.60 km2 in 2003. Large areas of farmland in the north and southwest were converted into urban construction land. The land use/cover changes of Xi'an were mainly caused by fast development of urban economy, population migration from countryside, great development of infrastructure such as transportation, and huge demands for urban market. In addition, affected by the government policy of "returning farmland to woodland", some farmland was converted into economic woodland, such as Chinese goosebeery garden, vineyard etc.
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