Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 70 ›› Issue (2): 297-307.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201502010

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Comparisons of the land use and cover change in China and the United States over the past 300 years

Fanneng HE1(), Meijiao LI1,2, Ran XIAO1,2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2014-09-11 Revised:2014-12-11 Online:2015-02-20 Published:2015-02-20
  • Supported by:
    China Global Change Research Program, No.2010CB950901;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41271227


The comparative studies of large-scale land use and land cover change (LUCC) among different countries can deepen our understanding of its historical processes and driving forces, and it is also significant for the regulation of human land-use behavior and adaptation to global climate change. Based on the data covering a long time scale, this paper compared and analyzed the temporal and spatial characteristics of LUCC between China and the United States (US) over the past 300 years. The results are shown as follows. (1) Over the past 300 years, the cropland area shows a growing tendency overall in both China and the US. As a traditional agricultural country, China increased cropland area by 79.46×104 km2 for 1661-1980s, but the per capita cropland decreased from 5.5 mu (Chinese area unit, 1 mu = 666.7 m2) in 1685 to 1.5 mu in 2000; while the cropland area of the US increased by 190.87×104 km2 for 1700-1950 and the per capita cropland area increased from 9.4 mu in 1700 to 30.2 mu in 1890, although the US has a short history and its agriculture started late. (2) Affected by the land reclamation, the forest and grassland areas decreased by about 1.45 million km2 and 1.37 million km2 in the US over the past 300 years; and the corresponding numbers of China are about 0.90 million km2 and 0.40 million km2, respectively. (3) In terms of the variation of spatial pattern, cropland expansion of China mainly occurred in border areas (such as the northeast, southwest, Inner Mongolia) and the mainland hilly areas; while under the influence of the "westward movement", cropland expansion of the US occurred in the Midwest. (4) The main factors affecting land use change of China and the US are policy, population and agricultural technology. Because of the differences in resource endowment and agricultural development history between the two countries, the population and economic interests are the fundamental driving factors to China and the US, respectively. In terms of the orientation of agricultural technology development, China has a large population and less per capita cropland area, and the agricultural technology improved slowly, while the US has a small population and more per capita cropland area, but the agricultural technology improved quickly, especially in the terms of the mechanization.

Key words: LUCC, historical comparison, past 300 years, China, the United States