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China ’ s Land-Use Changes during the Past 300 Years: A Historical Perspective

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ABSTRACT

Understanding the processes of historical land-use change is crucial to the research of global environmental sustainability. Here we examine and attempt to disentangle the evolutionary interactions between land-use change and its underlying causes through a historical lens. We compiled and synthesized historical land-use change and various biophysical, political, socioeconomic, and technical datasets, from the Qing dynasty to modern China. The analysis reveals a clear transition period between the 1950s and the 1980s. Before the 1950s, cropland expanded while forested land diminished, which was also accompanied by increasing population; after the 1980s land-use change exhibited new characteristics: changes in cropland, and decoupling of forest from population as a result of agricultural intensification and globalization. Chinese political policies also played an important and complex role, especially during the 1950s–1980s transition periods. Overall, climate change plays an indirect but fundamental role in the dynamics of land use via a series of various cascading effects such as shrinking agricultural production proceeding to population collapse and outbreaks of war. The expected continuation of agricultural intensification this century should be able to support increasing domestic demand for richer diets, but may not be compatible with long-term environmental sustainability.

No MeSH data available.


Historical changes of the population. Data resources: Cao [16], Zhang Y.Y. [17], Hou [18], Luo [19], Zhang Y1 & Y2 [20], Jiang [21]; New record: the Statistics of the Official Population in China since 1949, Pan [15].
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ijerph-13-00847-f001: Historical changes of the population. Data resources: Cao [16], Zhang Y.Y. [17], Hou [18], Luo [19], Zhang Y1 & Y2 [20], Jiang [21]; New record: the Statistics of the Official Population in China since 1949, Pan [15].

Mentions: A substantial number of datasets have previously been used to describe the Chinese population over the past 300 years (Figure 1). It is clear that these datasets differ in absolute numbers, but show similar temporal variations. Perhaps the most reliable estimate was recently reported by Pan et al. (2013) who built the population database from revised firsthand records over 286 time periods [15]. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the data is based on the six national population censuses in the years 1953, 1964, 1982, 1990, 2000, and 2010. These census data are generally regarded as more accurate than the historical reconstruction used before 1949.


China ’ s Land-Use Changes during the Past 300 Years: A Historical Perspective
Historical changes of the population. Data resources: Cao [16], Zhang Y.Y. [17], Hou [18], Luo [19], Zhang Y1 & Y2 [20], Jiang [21]; New record: the Statistics of the Official Population in China since 1949, Pan [15].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5036680&req=5

ijerph-13-00847-f001: Historical changes of the population. Data resources: Cao [16], Zhang Y.Y. [17], Hou [18], Luo [19], Zhang Y1 & Y2 [20], Jiang [21]; New record: the Statistics of the Official Population in China since 1949, Pan [15].
Mentions: A substantial number of datasets have previously been used to describe the Chinese population over the past 300 years (Figure 1). It is clear that these datasets differ in absolute numbers, but show similar temporal variations. Perhaps the most reliable estimate was recently reported by Pan et al. (2013) who built the population database from revised firsthand records over 286 time periods [15]. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the data is based on the six national population censuses in the years 1953, 1964, 1982, 1990, 2000, and 2010. These census data are generally regarded as more accurate than the historical reconstruction used before 1949.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Understanding the processes of historical land-use change is crucial to the research of global environmental sustainability. Here we examine and attempt to disentangle the evolutionary interactions between land-use change and its underlying causes through a historical lens. We compiled and synthesized historical land-use change and various biophysical, political, socioeconomic, and technical datasets, from the Qing dynasty to modern China. The analysis reveals a clear transition period between the 1950s and the 1980s. Before the 1950s, cropland expanded while forested land diminished, which was also accompanied by increasing population; after the 1980s land-use change exhibited new characteristics: changes in cropland, and decoupling of forest from population as a result of agricultural intensification and globalization. Chinese political policies also played an important and complex role, especially during the 1950s–1980s transition periods. Overall, climate change plays an indirect but fundamental role in the dynamics of land use via a series of various cascading effects such as shrinking agricultural production proceeding to population collapse and outbreaks of war. The expected continuation of agricultural intensification this century should be able to support increasing domestic demand for richer diets, but may not be compatible with long-term environmental sustainability.

No MeSH data available.