Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (11): 1580-1594.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1530-9

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

Cultivated land change in the Belt and Road Initiative region

Di CHEN1(), Qiangyi YU1,*(), Qiong HU1, Mingtao XIANG1, Qingbo ZHOU1, Wenbin WU1,*()   

  1. Key Laboratory of Agricultural Remote Sensing (AGRIRS), Ministry of Agriculture/Institute of Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China
  • Received:2018-01-04 Accepted:2018-06-06 Online:2018-11-20 Published:2018-12-21
  • Contact: Qiangyi YU,Wenbin WU;;
  • About author:

    Author: Chen Di (1991-), PhD Candidate, specialized in agricultural land use change. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41501111;Fundamental Research Funds for Central Non-profit Scientific Institution, No.IARRP-2017-27, No.IARRP-2017-65


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)-a development strategy proposed by China - provides unprecedented opportunities for multi-dimensional communication and cooperation across Asia, Africa and Europe. In this study, we analyse the spatio-temporal changes in cultivated land in the BRI countries (64 in total) to better understand the land use status of China along with its periphery for targeting specific collaboration. We apply FAO statistics and GlobeLand30 (the world’s finest land cover data at a 30-m resolution), and develop three indicator groups (namely quantity, conversion, and utilization degree) for the analysis. The results show that cultivated land area in the BRI region increased 3.73×104 km2 between 2000 and 2010. The increased cultivated land was mainly found in Central and Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, while the decreased cultivated land was mostly concentrated in China. Russia ranks first with an increase of 1.59×104 km2 cultivated land area, followed by Hungary (0.66×104 km2) and India (0.57×104 km2). China decreased 1.95×104 km2 cultivated land area, followed by Bangladesh (-0.22×104 km2) and Thailand (-0.22×104 km2). Cultivated land was mainly transferred to/from forest, grassland, artificial surfaces and bare land, and transfer types in different regions have different characteristics: while large amount of cultivated land in China was converted to artificial surfaces, considerable forest was converted to cultivated land in Southeast Asia. The increase of multi-cropping index dominated the region except the Central and Eastern Europe, while the increase of fragmentation index was prevailing in the region except for a few South Asian countries. Our results indicate that the negative consequence of cultivated land loss in China might be underestimated by the domestic-focused studies, as none of its close neighbours experienced such obvious cultivated land losses. Nevertheless, the increased cultivated land area in Southeast Asia and the extensive cultivated land use in Ukraine and Russia imply that the regional food production would be greatly improved if China’ “Go Out policy” would help those countries to intensify their cultivated land use.

Key words: spatio-temporal change, land conversion, intensification, multi-cropping, fragmentation, GlobeLand30