GlobeLand30 shows little cropland area loss but greater fragmentation in China

Qiangyi Yu*, Qiong Hu, Jasper van Vliet, Peter H. Verburg, Wenbin Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Understanding of cropland dynamics in a large geographical extent is mostly based on observations of area change, while the changes in landscape pattern are hardly assessed. The total amount of cropland in China has remained relatively stable in recent years, which might suggest there was little change. In this analysis, we combine the number of cropland patches (NP) with the total cropland area (TA) for a more comprehensive characterization of cropland change in China. We use GlobeLand30–a global land cover dataset with a 30 m resolution for the years 2000 and 2010–and characterize changes in TA and NP for each county as increase, stable, or decrease. This characterization shows that 703 out of 2420 counties experienced both cropland loss and increased fragmentation. The predominant cropland loss in these areas, especially in the North China Plain, is converted to artificial land. Another 212 are characterized by the opposite developments: an increase in cropland and decreased fragmentation. These counties, are mainly characterized by a conversion of forest areas and grassland areas. It suggests that the cropland conservation policy in China effectively protected the total cropland area in overall, but the consequences in terms of fragmentation might be underestimated. Counties with no obvious change in both indicators, measuring 279 counties, are mainly located in the Southeast. Our results are further compared with local level case studies: the fair consistency indicates alternatives of applying GlobeLand30 for analyzing landscape changes across scales and for cross-site comparisons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Early online date17 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Characterization
  • Cropland protection
  • Fragmentation
  • GlobeLand30
  • Gross change
  • Land use change


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