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Rapid land-use change has taken place in many arid and semi-arid regions of China such as Yulin prefecture over the last decade due to rehabilitation measures. In this paper, land-use change dynamics were investigated by the combined use of satellite remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS). Our objectives were to determine land-use transition rates among land-use types in Yulin prefecture over 14 years from 1986-2000 and to quantify the changes of various landscape metrics using FRAGSTATS, the spatial pattern analysis program for Categorical Maps. Using 30-m resolution Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) data from the Institute of Remote Sensing Application (IRSA) in China, we classified images into six land-use types: cropland, forestland, grassland, water, urban and/or built-up land, and barren land. Significant changes in land-use occurred within the area over the study period. The results show the significant decrease in barren land was mainly due to conversion to grassland. Cropland increased by 3.39%, associated with conversions from grassland and barren land. The landscape has become more continuous, clumped and more homogeneous. The study demonstrates that the integration of satellite remote sensing and GIS was an effective approach for analysing the direction, rate and spatial pattern of land-use change.