Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2014, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (6): 1022-1034.doi: 10.1007/s11442-014-1135-x

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

An approach to spatially explicit reconstruction of historical forest in Northeast China

Shicheng LI1,2(), Fanneng HE*1(), Xuezhen ZHANG1   

  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
  • Received:2014-06-10 Accepted:2014-07-02 Online:2014-06-20 Published:2014-06-20
  • About author:

    Author: Li Shicheng, PhD Candidate, specialized in land use and land cover change. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    China Global Change Research Program, No.2010CB950901.National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41271227


The spatially explicit reconstruction of historical land-cover datasets plays an important role in studying the climatic and ecological effects of land-use and land-cover change (LUCC). Using potential natural vegetation (PNV) and satellite-based land use data, we determined the possible maximum distribution extent of forest cover in the absence of human disturbance. Subsequently, topography and climate factors were selected to assess the suitability of land for cultivation. Finally, a historical forest area allocation model was devised on the basis of the suitability of land for cultivation. As a case study, we used the historical forest area allocation model to reconstruct forest cover for 1780 and 1940 in Northeast China with a 10-km resolution. To validate the model, we compared satellite-based forest cover data with our reconstruction for 2000. A one-sample t-test of absolute bias showed that the two-tailed significance was 0.12, larger than the significant level 0.05, suggesting that the model has strong ability to capture the spatial distribution of forests. In addition, we calculated the relative difference of our reconstruction at the county scale for 1780 in Northeast China. The number of counties whose relative difference ranged from -30% to 30% is 99, accounting for 74.44% of all counties. These findings demonstrated that the provincial forest area could be transformed into forest cover maps well using the model.

Key words: forest cover, gridding approach, historical period, Northeast China