Chinese Geographical Science

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 809–819 | Cite as

Spatial and Temporal Changes of Arable Land Driven by Urbanization and Ecological Restoration in China

  • Liyan Wang
  • Herzberger Anna
  • Liyun Zhang
  • Yi Xiao
  • Yaqing Wang
  • Yang Xiao
  • Jianguo Liu
  • Zhiyun OuyangEmail author


Since the industrial revolution, human activities have both expanded and intensified across the globe resulting in accelerated land use change. Land use change driven by China’s development has put pressure on the limited arable land resources, which has affected grain production. Competing land use interests are a potential threat to food security in China. Therefore, studying arable land use changes is critical for ensuring future food security and maintaining the sustainable development of arable land. Based on data from several major sources, we analyzed the spatio-temporal differences of arable land among different agricultural regions in China from 2000 to 2010 and identified the drivers of arable land expansion and loss. The results revealed that arable land decreased by 5.92 million ha or 3.31%. Arable land increased in the north and decreased in the south of China. Urbanization and ecological restoration programs were the main drivers of arable land loss, while the reclamation of other land cover types (e.g., forest, grassland, and wetland) was the primary source of the increased arable land. The majority of arable land expansion occurred in the Northwest, but the centroid for grain production moved to northeast, which indicated that new arable land was of poor quality and did not significantly contribute to the grain production capacity. When combined with the current ‘Red Line of Arable Land Policy’ (RAL) and ‘Ecological Redline Policy’ (EPR), this study can provide effective information for arable land policymaking and help guide the sustainable development of arable land.


arable land spatio-temporal characteristic agricultural regionalization driver China 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



The authors acknowledge the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) that kindly provided the mapped data to definite the distribution of arable land.


  1. Bai Y, Jiang B, Wang M et al., 2016. New ecological redline policy (ERP) to secure ecosystem services in China. Land Use Policy, 55(798): 348–351. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015. 09.002Google Scholar
  2. Baldos U, Hertel T W, 2015. The role of international trade in managing food security risks from climate change. Food Security, 7(2): 275–290. doi: 10.1007/s12571-015-0435-zGoogle Scholar
  3. Berry D, 1978. Effects of urbanization on agricultural activities. Growth and Change, 9(3): 2–8. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2257. 1978.tb01024.xGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown L R, 1995. Who Will Feed China? Wake-up Call for a Small Planet. London England Earthscan Publications.Google Scholar
  5. Bruinsma J, 2009. By how much do land, water and crop yields need to increase by 2050? Expert meeting on ‘How to Feed the World in 2050’.Google Scholar
  6. Cao Yingui, Yuan Chun, Zhou Wei et al., 2008. Analysis on driving forces and provincial differences of cultivated land change in China. China Land Science, 22(2): 17–22. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  7. Chen M, Liu W, Lu D, 2016. Challenges and the way forward in China’s new-type urbanization. Land Use Policy, 55(55): 334–339. doi: org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.07.025Google Scholar
  8. Chen Yuqi, Li Xiubin, Wang Jing, 2011. Changes and effecting factors of grain production in China. Chinese Geographical Science, 21(6): 676–684. doi: 10.1007/s11769-011-0506-9Google Scholar
  9. Cui X, Wang X, 2015. Urban land use change and its effect on social metabolism: an empirical study in Shanghai. Habitat International, 49: 251–259. doi: org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2015. 05.018Google Scholar
  10. Delzeit R, Zabel F, Meyer C et al., 2017. Addressing future trade-offs between biodiversity and cropland expansion to improve food security. Regional Environmental Change, 17(5): 1429–1441. doi: 10.1007/s10113-016-0927-1Google Scholar
  11. Deng J, Wang K, Hong Y et al., 2009. Spatio-temporal dynamics and evolution of land use change and landscape pattern in response to rapid urbanization. Landscape and urban planning, 92(3–4): 187–198. doi: org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2009.05.001Google Scholar
  12. Deng X, Huang J, Rozelle S et al., 2006. Cultivated land conversion and potential agricultural productivity in China. Land Use Policy, 23(4): 372–384. doi: org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2005.07.003Google Scholar
  13. Deng X, Huang J, Rozelle S et al., 2015. Impact of urbanization on cultivated land changes in China. Land Use Policy, 45(45): 1–7. doi: org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.01.007Google Scholar
  14. Feng Z, Yang Y, Zhang Y et al., 2005. Grain-for-green policy and its impacts on grain supply in West China. Land Use Policy, 22(4): 301–312. doi: org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2004.05.004Google Scholar
  15. Grafton R Q, Daugbjerg C, Qureshi M E, 2015. Towards food security by 2050. Food Security, 7(2): 179–183. doi: 10. 1007/s12571-015-0445-xGoogle Scholar
  16. Guan D, Li H, Inohae T et al., 2011. Modeling urban land use change by the integration of cellular automaton and Markov model. Ecological Modelling, 222(20): 3761–3772. doi: org/ 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.09.009Google Scholar
  17. Grau H R, Gasparri N I, Aide T M, 2008. Balancing food production and nature conservation in the Neotropical dry forests of northern Argentina. Global Change Biology, 14(5): 985–997. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01554.xGoogle Scholar
  18. He Q, Bertness M D, Bruno J et al., 2014. Pennings SC. Economic development and coastal ecosystem change in China. Scientific Reports, 4: 5995. doi: 10.1038/srep05995Google Scholar
  19. Jiang P, Cheng Q, Zhuang Z et al., 2018. The dynamic mechanism of landscape structure change of arable landscape system in China. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 251: 26–36. doi: org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.09.006Google Scholar
  20. Kastner T, Rivas M J I, Koch W et al., 2012. Global changes in diets and the consequences for land requirements for food. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(18): 6868–6872. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1117054109Google Scholar
  21. Kompas T, Nguyen H T M, Van Ha P, 2015. Food and biosecu-rity: livestock production and towards a world free of foot-and-mouth disease. Food Security, 7(2): 291–302. doi: 10.1007/s12571-015-0436-yGoogle Scholar
  22. Kuang W, Liu J, Dong J et al., 2016. The rapid and massive urban and industrial land expansions in China between 1990 and 2010: a clud-based analysis of their trajectories, patterns, and drivers. Landscape and Urban Planning, 145(145): 21–33. doi: org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.10.001Google Scholar
  23. Lam H, Remais J, Fung M et al., 2013. Food supply and food safety issues in China. Lancet, 381(9882): 2044–2053. doi: org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60776-XGoogle Scholar
  24. Larson C, 2013. Losing arable land, China faces stark choice: adapt or go hungry. Science, 339(6120): 644–645. doi: 10. 1126/science.339.6120.644Google Scholar
  25. Lei D, Shangguan Z, Rui L, 2012. Effects of the grain-for-green program on soil erosion in China. International Journal of Sediment Research, 27(1): 120–127. doi: org/10.1016/S1001-6279(12)60021-3Google Scholar
  26. Lichtenberg E, Ding C, 2008. Assessing farmland protection policy in China. Land Use Policy, 25(1): 59–68. doi: org/10.1016/ j.landusepol.2006.01.005Google Scholar
  27. Li J, Feldman M W, Li S et al., 2011. Rural household income and inequality under the Sloping Land Conversion Program in western China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(19): 7721–7726. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1101018108Google Scholar
  28. Li W, Feng T, Hao J, 2009. The evolving concepts of land administration in China: Cultivated land protection perspective. Land Use Policy, 26(2): 262–272. doi: org/10.1016/j. landusepol.2008.02.008Google Scholar
  29. Liu J, 2014. Forest sustainability in China and implications for a telecoupled world. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, 1(1): 230–250. doi: 10.1002/app5.17Google Scholar
  30. Liu J, Hull V, Yang W et al., 2016. Pandas and People: Coupling Human and Natural Systems for Sustainability. United States of America: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Liu X, Wang J, Liu M et al., 2005. Spatial heterogeneity of the driving forces of cropland change in China. Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences, 48(12): 2231–2240. doi: 10.1360/ 04yd0195Google Scholar
  32. Liu Y, Fang F, Li Y, 2014. Key issues of land use in China and implications for policy making. Land Use Policy, 40(40): 6–12. doi: org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2013.03.013Google Scholar
  33. Long H, Li Y, Liu Y et al., 2012. Accelerated restructuring in rural China fueled by ‘increasing vs. decreasing balance’ land-use policy for dealing with hollowed villages. Land Use Policy, 29(1): 11–22. doi: org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2011.04.003Google Scholar
  34. Lu Z, Deng X, 2011. China’s western development strategy: policies, effects and prospects. Available at: Google Scholar
  35. Ma Z, Melville D S, Liu J et al., 2014. Rethinking China’s new great wall. Science, 346(6212): 912–914. doi:10.1126/science. 1257258Google Scholar
  36. Nath R, Luan Y, Yang W et al., 2015. Changes in arable land demand for food in India and China: a potential threat to food security. Sustainability, 7(5): 5371–5397. doi:10.3390/su 7055371Google Scholar
  37. Ouyang Z, Zheng H, Xiao Y et al., 2016. Improvements in ecosystem services from investments in natural capital. Science, 352(6292): 1455–1459. doi: 10.1126/science.aaf2295Google Scholar
  38. Peng J, Liu Y, Li T et al., 2017a. Regional ecosystem health response to rural land use change: a case study in Lijiang City, China. Ecological Indicators, 72: 399–410. doi: org/10.1016/ j.ecolind.2016.08.024Google Scholar
  39. Peng J, Zhao M, Guo X et al., 2017b. Spatial-temporal dynamics and associated driving forces of urban ecological land: a case study in Shenzhen city, China. Habitat International, 60: 81–90. doi: org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2016.12.005Google Scholar
  40. Rao E, Ouyang Z, Yu X et al., 2014. Spatial patterns and impacts of soil conservation service in China. Geomorphology, 207(1): 64–70. doi: org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.10.027Google Scholar
  41. Rao Enming, Xiao Yi, Ouyang Zhiyun et al., 2016. Changes in ecosystem service of soil conservation between 2000 and 2010 and its driving factors in southwestern China. Chinese Geographical Science, 26: 165–173. doi: 10.1007/s11769-015-0759-9Google Scholar
  42. Roberts L, 2011. 9 Billion? Science, 333(6042): 50–543. doi: 10.1126/science.333.6042.540Google Scholar
  43. Sun J, Tong Y, Liu J, 2017. Telecoupled land-use changes in distant countries. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 16(2): 368–376. doi: org/10.1016/S2095-3119(16)61528-9Google Scholar
  44. Sun J, Wu W, Tang H et al., 2015. Spatiotemporal patterns of non–genetically modified crops in the era of expansion of genetically modified food. Scientific Reports, 5:14180. doi: 10.1038/srep14180Google Scholar
  45. Tan M, Li X, Xie H et al., 2005. Urban land expansion and arable land loss in China: a case study of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. Land Use Policy, 22(3): 187–196. doi: org/10.1016/j. landusepol.2004.03.003Google Scholar
  46. Tian G, Qiao Z, 2014. Assessing the impact of the urbanization process on net primary productivity in China in 1989–2000. Environmental Pollution, 184: 320–326. doi: org/10.1016/j. envpol.2013.09.012Google Scholar
  47. Tilman D, Balzer C, Hill J et al., 2011. Global food demand and the sustainable intensification of agriculture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(50): 20260–20264. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1116437108Google Scholar
  48. Tuanmu M N, Vina A, Yang W et al., 2016. Effects of payments for ecosystem services on wildlife habitat recovery. Conservation Biology, 30(4): 827–835. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12669Google Scholar
  49. United Nations. 2013. ‘World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, Volume II: Demographic Profiles, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division’. World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision.Google Scholar
  50. Viña A, McConnell W J, Yang H et al., 2016. Effects of conservation policy on China’s forest recovery. Science Advances, 2(3): e1500965. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1500965Google Scholar
  51. Wang J, Peng J, Zha M et al., 2017. Significant trade-off for the impact of Grain-for-Green Programme on ecosystem services in North-western Yunnan, China. Science of the To t a l Environment, 574: 57–64. doi:org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.09.026Google Scholar
  52. Wang Liyan, Xiao Yi, Rao Enming et al., 2015. Spatial characteristics of food provision service and its impact factors in China. Journal of Natural Resources, 30(2):189–193. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  53. Wang Wengang, Pang Xiaoxiao, Song Yuxiang et al., 2012. The spatial different features of construction land changes in China. Areal Research and Development, 31(1): 110–115. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  54. Wen Jiabao, 2011. Report on the Work of the Government. Proceedings of the Delivered at the Fourth Session of the Eleventh National People’s Congress, Beijing, 5th March. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  55. Xu Z, Xu J, Deng X et al., 2006. Grain for Green and Grain: a case study of the conflict between food security and the environment in China. World Development, 34(1): 130–148Google Scholar
  56. Yang Bangjie, Gao Jixi, Zou Changxin, 2014. The strategic significance of drawing the ecological protection red line. China Development, 14:1–4. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  57. Yang, H, Li X, 2000. Cultivated land and food supply in China. Land Use Policy, 17(2): 73–88. doi: org/10.1016/S0264-8377 (00)00008-9Google Scholar
  58. Zhang C, Robinson D, Wang J et al., 2011. Factors influencing farmers’ willingness to participate in the conversion of cultivated land to wetland program in Sanjiang National Nature Reserve, China. Environmental management, 47(1): 107–120. doi: 10.1007/s00267-010-9586-zGoogle Scholar
  59. Zhou H, Van R A, 2009. Detecting the impact of the ‘Grain for Green’ program on the mean annual vegetation cover in the Shaanxi Province, China using SPOT-VGT NDVI data. Land Use Policy, 26(4): 954–960. doi: org/10.1016/j.landusepol. 2008.11.006Google Scholar
  60. Zhou Lisan, Sun Han, Shen Yuqing, 1981. China’s comprehensive agricultural regionalization. Beijing: Agricultural Publishing House, 7: 2–9. (in Chinese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liyan Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Herzberger Anna
    • 3
  • Liyun Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yi Xiao
    • 1
  • Yaqing Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yang Xiao
    • 1
  • Jianguo Liu
    • 3
  • Zhiyun Ouyang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Center for Systems Integration and SustainabilityMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations