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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 cropland area. Data resources: Liu [23], Zhou [24], Zhang [17], Shi [25], Liang [26], Zheng [27], Ge [11,13], FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (1961–2009), Dang [28], Feng [22], Fu [29], Bi [30].
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ijerph-13-00847-f002: Historical changes of the cropland area. Data resources: Liu [23], Zhou [24], Zhang [17], Shi [25], Liang [26], Zheng [27], Ge [11,13], FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (1961–2009), Dang [28], Feng [22], Fu [29], Bi [30].

Mentions: Various published estimates on cropland area are plotted in Figure 2. The cropland statistics are less consistent between datasets than population. Here we preferred a study based on 3 northeastern and 18 other provinces in China [11,13] for cropland variation during the Qing dynasty and the Republican period (that is, prior to 1949). This data is highly continuous and close to the median of the different datasets (Figure 2). After 1949 we took governmental statistics on cropland area [22].


China ’ s Land-Use Changes during the Past 300 Years: A Historical Perspective
Historical changes of the cropland area. Data resources: Liu [23], Zhou [24], Zhang [17], Shi [25], Liang [26], Zheng [27], Ge [11,13], FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (1961–2009), Dang [28], Feng [22], Fu [29], Bi [30].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

ijerph-13-00847-f002: Historical changes of the cropland area. Data resources: Liu [23], Zhou [24], Zhang [17], Shi [25], Liang [26], Zheng [27], Ge [11,13], FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (1961–2009), Dang [28], Feng [22], Fu [29], Bi [30].
Mentions: Various published estimates on cropland area are plotted in Figure 2. The cropland statistics are less consistent between datasets than population. Here we preferred a study based on 3 northeastern and 18 other provinces in China [11,13] for cropland variation during the Qing dynasty and the Republican period (that is, prior to 1949). This data is highly continuous and close to the median of the different datasets (Figure 2). After 1949 we took governmental statistics on cropland area [22].

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.