Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 78 ›› Issue (1): 3-15.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202301001

• Land Use and Carbon Emissions •     Next Articles

The extent and spatial distribution of terrace abandonment in China

DONG Shijie1,2(), XIN Liangjie1, LI Shengfa3, XIE Hualin4, ZHAO Yuluan5, WANG Xue1, LI Xiubin1,2(), SONG Hengfei1,2, LU Yahan1,2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Key Lab of Guangdong for Utilization of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System/Guangdong Open Laboratory of Geospatial Information Technology and Application, Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Guangdong Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510070, China
    4. Institute of Ecological Civilization, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, Nanchang 330013, China
    5. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001, China
  • Received:2022-01-17 Revised:2022-12-23 Online:2023-01-25 Published:2023-01-16
  • Contact: LI Xiubin;
  • Supported by:
    Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China(41930757);GDAS' Project of Science and Technology Development(2020GDASYL-20200104005)


With urbanization and industrialization, cultivated land in hilly regions of China has been gradually marginalized. Abandoned cultivated lands have ranged from inferior sloping land and extended to high-quality terraces. The abandonment of terraces will lead to a series of social and ecological problems, especially with large-scale abandonment. Therefore, the degree and spatial distribution of terrace abandonment should be evaluated scientifically to address the issue of abandonment as well as its effects. This study investigated the extent of terrace abandonment in China via a questionnaire sampling method. Based on 560 village questionnaires from 329 counties in China, the scale of terrace abandonment was calculated and the spatial heterogeneity characteristics and primary reasons for terrace abandonment were further analyzed. Study results showed that: (1) The phenomenon of terrace abandonment was observed throughout China, occurring in 54% of all the villages investigated; 9.79% of the total terraced areas have been abandoned. (2) The degree of terrace abandonment showed a spatial pattern of "high in the south and low in the north". The degree of terrace abandonment was higher in the southern hilly mountains, and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River was the most serious. (3) The primary factors related to terrace abandonment were found to be labor migration, the degree to which terraces have been mechanized, irrigation conditions, and farming traffic conditions. Measures that include improving the degree of terrace mechanization should be enacted to address the problem of terrace abandonment. An orderly "conversion of cropland" could be applied to poor-quality terraces. Changing the planting structure, strengthening new agricultural infrastructure, and encouraging circulation and large-scale operations are options that could be applied to good-quality terraces.

Key words: terraced fields, cultivated land abandonment, national sampling survey, spatial differentiation, China