How did the urban land in floodplains distribute and expand in China from 1992-2015?

Shiqiang Du, Chunyang He*, Qingxu Huang, Peijun Shi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Urban land in floodplains (ULF) is a vital component of flood exposure and its variations can cause changes in flood risk. In the context of rapid urbanization, ULF is expanding rapidly in China and imperiling societal sustainability. However, a national-scale analysis of ULF patterns and dynamics has yet to be conducted. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the spatiotemporal changes in China's ULF at different spatial scales (the country, region, basin, and sub-basin scales) from 1992-2015. We found that ULF accounted for 44.41% of the total urban land in China in 2015, which was 3.68 times greater than the proportion of floodplains relative to the total land area in China (12.06%). From 1992-2015, the ULF area increased by 26.43 × 103 km2, or 542.21%. Moreover, the ULF area is expected to grow by 16.89 × 103 km2 (53.38%) between 2015 and 2050. ULF growth was strongly associated with the flood occurrence in China, and continued growth will pose a considerable challenge to urban sustainability, particularly in basins with poor flood defenses. Greater attention should thus be paid to ULF dynamics in China.

Original languageEnglish
Article number034018
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • flood exposure
  • floodplain
  • urban planning
  • urbanization


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