Dongting Lake area, located on the southern bank of the middle Yangtze River in central China, is one of the regions experiencing rapid land use change and seriously suffering from flooding disaster in the country. In this paper, a series of land-use coverage was generated through visually interpreting Landsat MSS, TM and ETM images, of 1980, 1990 and 2000 respectively. Then, the spatial-temporal characteristics and the driving forces of the land use changes were analyzed in the study area. The results show that, from 1980 to 2000, the areas of farmland, woodland and non-used land
decreased, while those of built-up land, water area and grassland increased. There was a significant shifting from farmland to water or built-up area, and the large-scale reclamation from the lake ever in history has not been found since 1980. The fastest changed area was in Shishou City, Yueyang City and Jinshi City, and the slowest in the eastern and southeastern area. About 49% of the changes were caused by the adjustment of agricultural economic structure, 29.75%
by the urbanization and industrialization, and 21.41% by the environmental pressure. The policy, market price and tax on
land products also have definitively influences on the land-use changes.