27 Jan 2021

27 Jan 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

A historical reconstruction of cropland in China from 1900 to 2016

Zhen Yu1, Xiaobin Jin2, Lijuan Miao3, and Xuhong Yang2 Zhen Yu et al.
  • 1Key Laboratory of Agrometeorology of Jiangsu Province, Institute of Ecology, School of Applied Meteorology, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, 210044, China
  • 2School of Geography and Ocean Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing, 210023, China
  • 3School of Geographical Sciences, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, 210044, China

Abstract. A spatially-explicit cropland distribution time-series dataset is the basis for the accurate assessment of biogeochemical processes in terrestrial ecosystems and their feedback to the climate system; however, this type of dataset is lacking in China. Existing cropland maps have a coarse resolution, are intermittently covered, or the data are inconsistent. We reconstructed a continuously covered cropland distribution dataset in China spanning from 1900 to 2016 by assimilating multiple data sources. In total, national cropland acreage expanded from 77.72 Mha in 1900 to the peak of 151.00 Mha in 1979, but it consistently decreased thereafter to 134.92 Mha in 2016. The cropland was primarily distributed in three historically cultivated plains in China: the Sichuan Plain, the Northern China Plain, and the Northeast China Plain. Cropland abandonment was approximately 29.90 Mha; it was mainly concentrated in the Northern China Plain and the Sichuan Plain and occurred during the 1990–2010 period. Cropland expansion was over 74.30 Mha; it was primarily found in the southeast, northern central, and northeast regions of China and occurred before 1950. In comparison, the national total and spatial-distribution of cropland in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the History Database of the Global Environment (HYDE) were distorted during the period of 1960–1980 due to the biased signal from the Chinese Agricultural Yearbook. We advocate that newly reconstructed cropland data, in which the bias has been corrected, should be used as the updated data for regional and global assessments, such as greenhouse gas emission accountings and food production simulations. The cropland dataset is available via an open-data repository ( (Yu et al., 2020).

Zhen Yu et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2020-382', Xin Deng, 05 Mar 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Zhen Yu, 06 Mar 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on essd-2020-382', Anonymous Referee #2, 26 Mar 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Zhen Yu, 19 Apr 2021
  • RC3: 'Comment on essd-2020-382', Yu Ye, 15 Apr 2021
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Zhen Yu, 03 May 2021
  • RC4: 'Comment on essd-2020-382', Anonymous Referee #4, 16 Apr 2021
    • AC4: 'Reply on RC4', Zhen Yu, 03 May 2021