Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2023, Vol. 33 ›› Issue (7): 1361-1376.doi: 10.1007/s11442-023-2133-7

• Research Articles •     Next Articles

Extent and spatial distribution of terrace abandonment in China

DONG Shijie1,2(), XIN Liangjie1, LI Shengfa3, XIE Hualin4, ZHAO Yuluan5, WANG Xue1, LI Xiubin1,2,*(), SONG Hengfei1,2, LU Yahan1,2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Key Lab of Guangdong for Utilization of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information System/Guangdong Open Laboratory of Geospatial Information Technology and Application, Guangzhou Institute of Geography, Guangdong Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510070, China
    4. Institute of Ecological Civilization, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, Nanchang 330013, China
    5. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001, China
  • Received:2023-03-07 Accepted:2023-04-15 Online:2023-07-25 Published:2023-07-24
  • Contact: *Li Xiubin, Professor, E-mail:
  • About author:Dong Shijie, PhD, E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China(41930757);GDAS' Project of Science and Technology Development(2020GDASYL-20200104005)


Driven by urbanization and industrialization, arable land in hilly and mountainous regions of China is gradually becoming marginalized, with the extent of arable land abandonment rapidly expanding from poor-quality sloping arable land to high-quality terraces. The abandonment of large-scale terraces will lead to a series of socio-economic and ecological effects. A national sample survey was used to investigate the extent and spatial distribution of terrace abandonment in China, and a total of 560 valid village questionnaires from 329 counties were collected in the mountainous areas of China. The main findings are as follows: (1) The phenomenon of terrace abandonment was widespread throughout the country, with 54% of the total surveyed villages exhibiting terrace abandonment, and the area of abandoned terraces accounting for 9.79% of the total. (2) The degree of terrace abandonment is high in the south and low in the north. The most serious region with abandonment was the hilly and mountainous areas in the south, especially in the middle and lower Yangtze River region. (3) The main driving factors of terrace abandonment were rural labor migration, agricultural mechanization level, irrigation conditions, and transportation conditions for cultivation. Targeted measures should be taken based on the specific conditions of each area to alleviate terrace abandonment. Measures such as improving terrace mechanization are universally applicable. Specifically, low-quality terraces can be withdrawn orderly, and for high-quality terraces, multiple measures are needed to consolidate agricultural production, such as adjusting the planting structure, strengthening agricultural infrastructure construction, and encouraging the transfer of land-use rights as well as large-scale operation.

Key words: terraces, arable land abandonment, national sample survey, spatial variation, China