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Observations over the last three decades show that desertification poses a serious threat to the livelihood and productivity of inhabitants of the Horqin Sandy Land region of China. We evaluated the dynamics and trends of changes of land cover in the Horqin Sandy Land by using Landsat archive images from 1975, 1987, 1999, and 2007. We applied two supervised classification methods, the self-organizing map neural network method and the subspace method. Our analyses revealed significant changes to land cover over the period 1975-2007. The area of cropland doubled over the last three decades. This expansion was accompanied by large increases in water consumption and considerable loss of areas of grassland and woodland. Many lakes and rivers shrank rapidly or disappeared in this region between 1975 and 2007. The sandy area expanded rapidly from 1975 to 1987 but gradually slowed thereafter.