Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (11): 1595-1610.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1531-8

• Special Issue: Land system dynamics: Pattern and process • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The changing patterns of cropland conversion to built-up land in China from 1987 to 2010

Hongrun JU1,2,3,4(), Zengxiang ZHANG1, Xiaoli ZHAO1, Xiao WANG1, Wenbin WU5, Ling YI1, Qingke WEN1, Fang LIU1, Jinyong XU1, Shunguang HU1, Lijun ZUO1,*()   

  1. 1. Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. School of Tourism and Geography Science, Qingdao University, Qingdao 266071, Shandong, China
    3. Department of Geography, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
    4. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    5. Key Laboratory of Agri-informatics, Ministry of Agriculture/Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
  • Received:2017-06-30 Accepted:2017-09-12 Online:2018-11-20 Published:2018-11-20
  • Contact: Lijun ZUO;
  • About author:

    Author: Ju Hongrun (1990-), PhD, specialized in land use and GIS. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment, No.2017ZX07101001


Over the past few decades, built-up land in China has increasingly expanded with rapid urbanization, industrialization and rural settlements construction. The expansions encroached upon a large amount of cropland, placing great challenges on national food security. Although the impacts of urban expansion on cropland have been intensively illustrated, few attentions have been paid to differentiating the effects of growing urban areas, rural settlements, and industrial/transportation land. To fill this gap and offer comprehensive implications on framing policies for cropland protection, this study investigates and compares the spatio-temporal patterns of cropland conversion to urban areas, rural settlements, and industrial/transportation land from 1987 to 2010, based on land use maps interpreted from remote sensing imagery. Five indicators were developed to analyze the impacts of built-up land expansion on cropland in China. We find that 42,822 km2 of cropland were converted into built-up land in China, accounting for 43.8% of total cropland loss during 1987-2010. Urban growth showed a greater impact on cropland loss than the expansion of rural settlements and the expansion of industrial/transportation land after 2000. The contribution of rural settlement expansion decreased; however, rural settlement saw the highest percentage of traditional cropland loss which is generally in high quality. The contribution of industrial/transportation land expansion increased dramatically and was mainly distributed in major food production regions. These changes were closely related to the economic restructuring, urban-rural transformation and government policies in China. Future cropland conservation should focus on not only finding a reasonable urbanization mode, but also solving the “hollowing village” problem and balancing the industrial transformations.

Key words: cropland loss, urban growth, rural settlement, industrial land, transportation land, China