Through methods of historical literature research from 2 B.C. to 1934 A.D. (i.e. from Western Han dynasty to the Republic of China) in the Great Dunhuang region, the authors of this paper made a systematic research for the first time of the impacts that the historical socio-economic development policies had on the eco-environment in Great Dunhuang region in China. A conclusion is drawn that historical socioeconomic development policies in Great Dunhuang region changed dramatically with evolution of feudal dynasties. Prior to Western Han dynasty, nomadic development mode dominated and gradually turned to semi-nomadic, semi-farming development modes. In later dynasties, animal husbandry was gradually reduced and farming became the major source for military and residential livelihood and income generation. Policies of Tun Jun (having garrison troops reclaim wastelands to gather grain), migration, taxation and farming were mainly responsible for the damage to the ecological environment in Great Dunhuang region. Moreover, evolutions of national culture in Great Dunhuang region were also one of the main reasons for the increasingly fragile eco-environment. When Great Dunhuang region was governed by nomadic peoples, animal husbandry was the mainstream and ecological environment remained stable with few sandstorm disasters. When nomadic culture was replaced by farming culture, grasslands and forests were intensively converted into farmland, leading to such disasters as soil erosion, land desertification and sandstorms. Consequently, farming civilization and nomadic civilization are two types of civilization created by human being in the process of development. They both need to adapt to the natural and climate conditions. Using one civilization to replace another would be a failure in natural resource management. The replacement of nomadic civilization might be one major driving factor for the present fragile ecological environment and frequent occurrence of natural disasters in Great Dunhuang region. Therefore, the stability of ecological environment has a close relation to a nation's traditional culture and its management behavior of nature. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.