Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2015, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (5): 592-602.doi: 10.1007/s11442-015-1189-4

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatially precise reconstruction of cropland areas in Heilongjiang Province, northeast China during 1900-1910

Lijuan ZHANG1(), Lanqi JIANG1, Xuezhen ZHANG2,3,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Monitoring of Geographic Environment, Harbin Normal University, Harbin 150025, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    3. Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Climate Change, Nanjing 210093, China
  • Received:2014-10-15 Accepted:2014-12-25 Online:2015-05-15 Published:2015-05-15
  • Contact: Xuezhen ZHANG;
  • About author:

    Author: Zhang Lijuan (1965-), PhD and Professor, specializing in studies of changes in land use and land cover.

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.42171217;No.41471171


It is necessary to reconstruct past changes in land use and land cover to understand the historical effects of humans on climate and the local environment. We collected information from historical documents on the cropland area at the county level for Heilongjiang Province, northeast China during 1900-1910. The original records from different historical documents were calibrated with each other. We then defined an agricultural suitability index quantified by the distance from settlements, the slope and complexity of the topography, and the distance from rivers. Following the order of the agricultural suitability index from high to low values, the documented areas of cropland at the county level were then allocated into 1 km × 1 km cells. The area of cropland in 2009 was then retrieved from Landsat ETM+ images and compared with the areas of cropland during 1900-1910 to determine the human-induced changes in land use and land cover. In this period, the total area of cropland was about 25,397 km2 and this mainly occurred in the mid-southern part of Heilongjiang, in particular the six counties of Hailun, Bayan, Wuchang, Hulan, Shuangcheng and Wangkui. In 2009, the total area of cropland had increased to about 163,808 km2 and had spread over the southwestern part to the central and northeastern parts of Heilongjiang. The area of cropland had therefore increased by about 138,411 km2 during the 20th century. The proportion of land used as cropland increased from about 5.6% during 1900-1910 to about 36.2% in 2009, indicating that about 30.6% of the natural land surface in Heilongjiang was replaced by cropland. A total of about 44% (60,962 km2) of the cropland was converted from forest, mainly on the western edge and in the northeastern part of the present-day agricultural area. These areas of cropland reconstructed from historical records for the period 1900-1910 could be used as a basic data set to study the effects of agricultural development on climate and the local environment.

Key words: agricultural suitability index, Heilongjiang Province, northeast China, land cover changes, 1900-1910