Zhang Zengxiang

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China's changing landscape during the 1990s : large-scale land transformations estimated with satellite data

2005-01-27 , Liu, Jiyuan , Tian, Hanqin , Liu, Mingliang , Zhuang, Dafang , Melillo, Jerry M. , Zhang, Zengxiang

Land-cover changes in China are being powered by demand for food for its growing population and by the nation's transition from a largely rural society to one in which more than half of its people are expected to live in cities within two decades. Here we use an analysis of remotely sensed data gathered between 1990 and 2000, to map the magnitude and pattern of changes such as the conversion of grasslands and forests to croplands and the loss of croplands to urban expansion. With high-resolution (30 m) imagery from Landsat TM for the entire country, we show that between 1990 and 2000 the cropland area increased by 2.99 million hectares and urban areas increased by 0.82 million hectares. In northern China, large areas of woodlands, grasslands and wetlands were converted to croplands, while in southern China large areas of croplands were converted to urban areas. The land-cover products presented here give the Chinese government and international community, for the first time, an unambiguous understanding of the degree to which the nation's landscape is being altered. Documentation of these changes in a reliable and spatially explicit way forms the foundation for management of China's environment over the coming decades.