Spatial Analysis of Cultural Heritage Landscapes in Rural China: Land Use Change and Its Risks for Conservation

H. Yu, P.H. Verburg, L. Liu, D.A. Eitelberg

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cultural heritage landscapes are consistently perceived as landscapes of high value. However, these landscapes are very vulnerable to change. In China, rapid land use change, especially urbanization, has become one of the main challenges for the conservation of cultural heritage landscapes in rural areas. This paper focuses on the designated cultural villages in rural China by systematically analyzing the spatial distribution of the designated cultural landscape across the country and assessing the threats these traditional landscapes are facing under current and future urbanization and other land use pressures. Current designated cultural heritage landscapes in China are predominantly located in the rural and peri-urban regions of Central and South China and less frequently found in other regions. Especially in these regions risks to land use change are large. These risks are assessed based on observed recent land use change and land use model simulations for scenarios up to 2050. The risk assessment reveals that especially in Southeast China along the sea coast and near the cities along the Yangtze River, high pressures are expected on cultural heritage landscapes due to urbanization. At the same time, in Southwest China, especially in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, high pressures due to other land use changes are expected, including land abandonment. This assessment gives direction and guidance toward the selection of the most threatened cultural villages for detailed investigation and additional protection measures.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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