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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(9), 847; doi:10.3390/ijerph13090847

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

College of Remote Sensing and Geography, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing 210044, China
State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Halle (Saale) 06120, Germany
College of System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Yu-Pin Lin
Received: 1 July 2016 / Revised: 1 August 2016 / Accepted: 16 August 2016 / Published: 25 August 2016
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1290 KB, uploaded 25 August 2016]   |  


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. View Full-Text
Keywords: land use transition; human-environment interaction; driving factor; China land use transition; human-environment interaction; driving factor; China

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Miao, L.; Zhu, F.; Sun, Z.; Moore, J.C.; Cui, X. China’s Land-Use Changes during the Past 300 Years: A Historical Perspective. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13, 847.

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