Monitoring vegetation change and their potential drivers are important to environmental management. Previous studies on vegetation change detection and driver discrimination were two independent fields. Specifically, change detection methods focus on nonlinear and linear change behaviors, i.e., abrupt change (AC) and gradual change (GC). But driver discrimination studies mainly used linear coupling models which rarely concerned the nonlinear behaviors of vegetation. The two diagnoses need be treated as sequential flow because they have inner causality mechanisms. Furthermore, ACs concealed in time series may induce over/under-estimate contributions from human. We chose the Yangtze River Basin of China (YRB) as a study area, first separated ACs from GCs using breaks for additive and seasonal trend method, then discriminated drivers of GCs using optimized Restrend method. Results showed that (1) 2.83% of YRB were ACs with hotspots in 1998 (30.2%), 2003 (10.4%), and 2002 (7.6%); 66.7% of YRB experienced GC with 94.8% of which were positive; and (2) climate induced more area but less dramatic GCs than human activities. Further analysis showed that temperature was the main climate driver to GCs, while human-induced GCs were related to local eco-policies. The widely occurring ACs in 1998 were related to the flooding catastrophe, while the dramatic ACs in sub-basin 12 in 2003 may result from urbanization. This paper provides clear insights on the vegetation changes and their drivers at a relatively long perspective (i.e., 34 years). Sequential combination of specifying different vegetation behaviors with driver analysis could improve driver characterizations, which is key to environmental assessment and management in YRB.