Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2023, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (4): 741-759.doi: 10.1007/s11442-023-2104-z

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Utilization effect of water-land resources under the evolution of Chinese dietary patterns

ZHU Yuanyuan1(), WANG Ziwei1, ZHU Xiaohua2,*()   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Geographic Process Analysis & Simulation Hubei Province, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2022-04-09 Accepted:2022-12-23 Online:2023-04-25 Published:2023-05-11
  • Contact: *Zhu Xiaohua (1972-), PhD and Professor, specialized in sustainable consumption and resource and environmental effects. E-mail:
  • About author:Zhu Yuanyuan (1985-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in regional development and urban-rural planning. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(42171230);National Natural Science Foundation of China(42071170)


Exploring the utilization effect of water-land resources under the evolution of dietary patterns is of great significance in achieving sustainable global food consumption and the effective allocation of national resources. Our selected study area was China, a country with rapidly changing dietary consumption patterns, and the research period was between 1987 and 2020. Based on the material called Chinese Dietary Guidelines 2021, this study introduced the “virtual water” and the “virtual land” to quantify the utilization effect of water-land resources under the evolution of Chinese dietary patterns. Results showed that the dietary patterns gradually changed from “cereal-vegetable-based consumption” to “diversified consumption”. Food consumption’s total water footprint (WF) increased from 471.1 Gm3 in 1987 to 848.8 Gm3 in 2020, with a growth rate of 80.2%. Moreover, the total land requirement for food (LRF) increased from 88.8 Mha in 1987 to 129.9 Mha in 2020, with a growth rate of 46.3%. Furthermore, the meat consumption was the major contributor to the increase in total WF (104.0%) and LRF (102.1%). In contrast to the balanced diet pattern, there was no waste of water-land resources consumption for the food consumption of urban-rural residents in China between 1987 and 2020. However, the consumption of water resources would gradually approach the resource cost under the balanced diet patterns. It would eventually break through the critical value and reach the state of resource waste. In addition, the findings showed that urban residents’ waste rate of water-land resources for meat consumption increased by 142.3% compared with that in 1987. The research results can provide scientific guidance for resolving the food crisis under the supply of water-land resources in China and have an essential reference for national food security and sustainable development of resources and environment.

Key words: dietary patterns, water-land resource utilization, food security, sustainable development, China