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Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1283;

Ancient Irrigation Canals Mapped from Corona Imageries and Their Implications in Juyan Oasis along the Silk Road

2,3,* , 4
School of Geography and Tourism, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China
Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100094, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 May 2017 / Revised: 7 July 2017 / Accepted: 18 July 2017 / Published: 23 July 2017
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Historical records and archaeological discoveries have shown that prosperous agricultural activities developed in the ancient Juyan Oasis of northwestern China, an important oasis that once flourished on the ancient Silk Road. However, how the irrigation canals were distributed in historical time was unknown. Here, we identified and mapped the spatial distribution of ancient abandoned irrigation canals that were built using CORONA photographs and field inspections. This work found that ancient irrigation canals are large-scale and distributed throughout the desertified environment, with three hierarchical organization of first-, second-, and third-order irrigation canals (the total length of the first- and second-order-irrigation canals is dramatically more than 392 km). This study further indicates that ancient irrigation methods and modern irrigation systems in arid regions of China share the same basic irrigation design. New visual and fine-scale evidence and spatial distribution of irrigation canals are provided to illustrate the development of the ancient irrigated agriculture that occurred in the Juyan Oasis. This work is useful for readers who are interested in the construction and organization approaches of irrigation canals used in ancient irrigated agriculture in arid regions. It also has implications for how ancient people balance the relationships between human needs and the eco-environment using reasonable water management methods, especially for decision-making in the efficient usage of limited water resources in the arid inland river basin. View Full-Text
Keywords: irrigation canal; agriculture; CORONA; archaeology; remote sensing irrigation canal; agriculture; CORONA; archaeology; remote sensing

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Hu, N.; Li, X.; Luo, L.; Zhang, L. Ancient Irrigation Canals Mapped from Corona Imageries and Their Implications in Juyan Oasis along the Silk Road. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1283.

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