Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 1195-1214.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1777-9

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Development of land use transitions research in China

LONG Hualou1,2(), QU Yi3,*(), TU Shuangshuang1,4, ZHANG Yingnan1,2, JIANG Yanfeng1,5   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Regional Sustainable Development Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. School of Geography, Geomatics and Planning, Jiangsu Normal University, Xuzhou 221116, Jiangsu, China
    4. Key Laboratory of Environment Change and Resources Use in Beibu Gulf, Nanning Normal University, the Ministry of Education, Nanning 530001, China
    5. School of Geographical Sciences, University of Nottingham Ningbo, Ningbo 315000, Zhejiang, China
  • Received:2019-12-08 Accepted:2020-04-16 Online:2020-07-25 Published:2020-09-25
  • Contact: QU Yi
  • About author:Long Hualou (1971-), PhD and Professor, specialized in rural restructuring, urban-rural development and land use transition. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China(41731286)


With the introduction of the concept of land use transition into China, related researches have been carried out extensively in the past two decades, which enrich the knowledge of land system science. This paper describes the development of research on land use transitions in China from the perspectives of conceptual connotations, theoretical model, research methods, and research progress and prospects. With the in-depth investigation of land use transitions, the concept and connotations of land use morphology are developed and encapsulated as two kinds, i.e., dominant morphology and recessive morphology. The dominant morphology refers to the land use structure of a certain region over a certain period of time, with features such as the quantity and spatial pattern of land use types. While the recessive morphology includes the land use features in the aspects of quality, property rights, management mode, input, output and function. Accordingly, the concept of land use transition is further developed, and the theoretical model of regional land use transitions is established. Thereafter, three innovative integrated approaches to study land use transitions are put forward, i.e., multidisciplinary research framework for recessive land use transition, transect and horizontal comparison. To date, there have been 62 Ph.D. and 166 M.S. dissertations on the topic of “land use transition” in China. During 2002-2019, the National Natural Science Foundation of China has funded 48 research programs on the theme of “land use transition”. As such, the Chinese scholars have adapted the concept derived from western literature to the situations and experiences in China.

Key words: land use morphology, theoretical model, multidisciplinary integration, horizontal comparison, rural restructuring, rural vitalization, land system science