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Data - Cultivated Land
Increase, Decrease and Stock of Cultivated Land in China, 1988 - 1995
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Source: State Land Administration, Statistical Information on the Land of China in 1995. Beijing, 1996. And equivalent reports for 1988 to 1994.
This chart demonstrates that China's cultivated land (as in any other country) is not just a given natural resource stock, but the result of various simultaneous processes of increase and decline.
In 1995, for instance, China lost some 798.1 thousand hectares of cultivated land: most of it was converted to horticulture (red bar), used for reforestation (blue bar), or was lost in disasters - mainly floods and droughts (yellow bar). However, China's farmers also expanded the cultivated land by some 388.9 thousand hectares - mainly by reclamation of previously unused areas, but also by conversion of areas, which were previously used for other purposes. The net-change of these increases and declines, which amounted to some 409.1 thousand hectares, reduced the stock of cultivated land only slightly.
Some general trends can be easily inferred from this chart:
(1) Approximately 70 to 75% of China's cultivated land-"losses" are not what people usually imagine - a permanent transformation of cropland into infrastructure or urban areas. Most cultivated land-losses are conversions into other types of agricultural use or losses due to disasters. Infrastructure, settlements and industries account for only some 10 to 15% of the losses.
(2) There is a clear trend of growing decreases since 1990 - a year, when the decreases where actually smaller than the increases of cultivated land. This trend is not matched by an equivalent amount of reclamation, which results in a growing net-loss of cultivated Land in China.
See also: Fisher, G. / Chen, Y. / Sun, L. (1989): The balance of cultivated land in China during 1988-1995. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Interim Report IR-98-047
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Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)  - Copyright 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright 1999 by IIASA.)