Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2020, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (8): 1307-1324.doi: 10.1007/s11442-020-1783-y

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Reconstruction of cropland area in the European part of Tsarist Russia from 1696 to 1914 based on historical documents

ZHAO Zhilong1,2(), FANG Xiuqi1, YE Yu1,*(), ZHANG Chengpeng1, ZHANG Diyang1   

  1. 1. Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2019-12-28 Accepted:2020-04-30 Online:2020-08-25 Published:2020-10-25
  • Contact: YE Yu
  • About author:Zhao Zhilong (1988-), PhD, specialized in historical land use and cover change reconstruction. E-mail:;
  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China(2017YFA0603304)


To evaluate the climatic and ecological impacts of anthropogenic activities in global change research, it is essential to reconstruct historical land use and land cover change on regional and global scales. In this study, we reconstructed cropland areas for 54 provinces within the European part of Tsarist Russia (ETR) over the periods of 1696-1914 using historical data, including cropland area, population, grain consumption, and grain yield per unit area. The main results are as follows. (1) Total cropland areas and fractional cropland areas of ETR for 8 time sections during 1696-1914 were reconstructed, the former increased from 31.98×104 km2 to 147.40×104 km2, and the latter increased from 7.89% to 29.20%. The per capita cropland area decreased from 0.0246 km2 to 0.0113 km2 during 1696-1914. (2) Cropland expanded from the central and southwestern ETR to the black soil region, surrounding area of the Volga River, Ukraine region, the new Russia region, the vicinity of Ural, and north Caucasus region. (3) The expansion of territory, increase and migration of population, policies related to agricultural development and foreign trade, and the impacts of climate change were the reasons for the changes in cropland within ETR from 1696 to 1914. (4) In 1914, the cropland area and fractional cropland area of each province varied from 0.16×104 km2 and 0.76% to 5.65×104 km2 and 76.68%, respectively. (5) The comparisons show that the cropland areas of ETR in this study for 1696-1914 are higher than those in the HYDE 3.2 dataset. The main reason for this finding might be the underestimation of per capita cropland areas in the HYDE 3.2 dataset, which values remained at approximately 0.01 km2 from 1700 to 1920.

Key words: land use/cover change, cropland area, provincial-level reconstruction, past 300 years, Eastern Europe