Response of net primary production to land use and land cover change in mainland China since the late 1980s

Jun Li, Zhaoli Wang, Chengguang Lai, Xiaoqing Wu, Zhaoyang Zeng, Xiaohong Chen, Yanqing Lian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Land use and land cover patterns in mainland China have substantially changed in the recent decades under the economic reform policies of the government. The terrestrial carbon cycle, particularly the net primary productivity (NPP), has been substantially changed on both local and national scales. With the growing concern over the effects of the terrestrial carbon cycle on global climate changes, the impacts of land use and cover change (LUCC) on NPP need to be understood. In this study, variations in NPP caused by LUCC (e.g., urbanization and conversion of other land use to forest and grassland) in mainland China from the late 1980s to 2015 were evaluated based on land cover datasets and NPPs simulated from the Carnegie–Ames–Stanford Approach model. The results indicate that the national total losses in NPP attributed to urbanization reached 1.695 TgC between the late 1980s and 2015. A large proportion (63.02%) of the total losses was due to the transformation from cropland to urban land. Urban expansion decreased the monthly and total NPPs over southern China, which includes the South China Region, Southwest China Region, and the middle and lower regions of the Yangtze River. However, the total NPP increased in the majority of urbanized areas in Northern China, including the Huang–Huai–Hai Region, Inner Mongolia Region (MGR), Gan-Xin Region (GXR), and Northeast China Region; monthly NPP in GXR and MGR increased throughout the year. By contrast, the conversion to grassland or forestland increased the monthly and total NPPs of Northern China, suggesting that returning to forestland and grassland could increase the carbon sequestration capacity of terrestrial ecosystems in mainland China. Among the sub-regions, the Loess Plateau Region contributed the largest increase in NPP, which was prompted by the conversion to grassland and forestland.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-247
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Oct 15 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Land use and cover change
  • Mainland China
  • Net primary productivity
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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