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

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.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Temperature anomaly reconstructions: PAGES 2K representing Asian temperature [35]; Ge representing central and eastern China winter half-year temperatures based on historical archives [36]; Shi representing southeastern Tibetan Plateau summer minimum temperature [37].
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ijerph-13-00847-f003: Temperature anomaly reconstructions: PAGES 2K representing Asian temperature [35]; Ge representing central and eastern China winter half-year temperatures based on historical archives [36]; Shi representing southeastern Tibetan Plateau summer minimum temperature [37].

Mentions: We used three datasets to describe the historical climate change trends over the past 300 years, (1) PAGES 2K: tree ring reconstructed temperature anomalies for Asia [35]; (2) Ge: winter half-year (October to April) temperature anomalies reconstructed over the past 300 years in the main crop areas in eastern China based on 200 phenological and crop records, winter snow days and historical meteorological recordings [36]; and (3) Shi: East Tibetan Plateau summer minimum temperature anomalies inferred from Alpine tree line dendrochronology [37]. High resolution regional climate models show that most of China responds similarly to climate change [38], though variability in precipitation is larger than for temperature. Figure 3 illustrates that the Ge and Shi records show generally similar features, though the magnitude of the variations varies, as may be expected given that they are records representing mainly winter conditions in eastern China and summer conditions in western China, respectively. All three records show similar warming trends since 1800 of about 0.4 ± 0.1 °C/century. Using a single climate index for a country as large as China is of course an approximation, and all three indexes also rely mainly on proxy data rather than being instrumental records. The temperature data from Ge et al. (2003) was chosen for further studies as it mainly based on historical archives, many of which are directly related to agriculture [36]. Since drought severity may be expected to play a role in limiting agriculture in China, we also used a drought index reconstructed from historical records [39]; this index suggests more severe drought events than the Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas (MADA) [40], which was based on tree rings.


China ’ s Land-Use Changes during the Past 300 Years: A Historical Perspective
Temperature anomaly reconstructions: PAGES 2K representing Asian temperature [35]; Ge representing central and eastern China winter half-year temperatures based on historical archives [36]; Shi representing southeastern Tibetan Plateau summer minimum temperature [37].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

ijerph-13-00847-f003: Temperature anomaly reconstructions: PAGES 2K representing Asian temperature [35]; Ge representing central and eastern China winter half-year temperatures based on historical archives [36]; Shi representing southeastern Tibetan Plateau summer minimum temperature [37].
Mentions: We used three datasets to describe the historical climate change trends over the past 300 years, (1) PAGES 2K: tree ring reconstructed temperature anomalies for Asia [35]; (2) Ge: winter half-year (October to April) temperature anomalies reconstructed over the past 300 years in the main crop areas in eastern China based on 200 phenological and crop records, winter snow days and historical meteorological recordings [36]; and (3) Shi: East Tibetan Plateau summer minimum temperature anomalies inferred from Alpine tree line dendrochronology [37]. High resolution regional climate models show that most of China responds similarly to climate change [38], though variability in precipitation is larger than for temperature. Figure 3 illustrates that the Ge and Shi records show generally similar features, though the magnitude of the variations varies, as may be expected given that they are records representing mainly winter conditions in eastern China and summer conditions in western China, respectively. All three records show similar warming trends since 1800 of about 0.4 ± 0.1 °C/century. Using a single climate index for a country as large as China is of course an approximation, and all three indexes also rely mainly on proxy data rather than being instrumental records. The temperature data from Ge et al. (2003) was chosen for further studies as it mainly based on historical archives, many of which are directly related to agriculture [36]. Since drought severity may be expected to play a role in limiting agriculture in China, we also used a drought index reconstructed from historical records [39]; this index suggests more severe drought events than the Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas (MADA) [40], which was based on tree rings.

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.


Related in: MedlinePlus