Liu, XX; Yu, L; Dong, QH; Peng, DL; Wu, WB; Yu, QY; Cheng, YQ; Xu, YD; Huang, XM; Zhou, Z; Wang, D; Fang, L; Gong, P (2020). Cropland heterogeneity changes on the Northeast China Plain in the last three decades (1980s-2010s). PEERJ, 8, e9835.

The Northeast China Plain is one of the major grain-producing areas of China because of its fertile black soil and large fields adapted for agricultural machinery. It has experienced some land-use changes, such as urbanization, deforestation, and wetland reclamation in recent decades. A comprehensive understanding of these changes in terms of the total cropping land and its heterogeneity during this period is important for policymakers. In this study, we used a series of cropland products at the 30-m resolution for the period 1980-2015. The heterogeneity for dominant cropland decreased slowly over the three decades, especially for the large pieces of cropland, showing a general trend of increased cropland homogeneity. The spatial patterns of the averaged heterogeneity index were nearly the same, varying from 0.5 to 0.6, and the most heterogeneous areas were mainly located in some separate counties. Cropland expansion occurred across most of Northeast China, while cropland shrinking occurred only in the northern and eastern sections of Northeast China and around the capital cities, in the flat areas. Also, changes in land use away from cropland mainly occurred in areas with low elevation (50-200 m) and a gentle slope (less than 1 degree). The predominant changes in cropland were gross gain and homogeneity, occurring across most of the area except capital cities and boundary areas. Possible reasons for the total cropland heterogeneity changes were urbanization, restoration of cropland to forest, and some government land-use policies. Moreover, this study evaluates the effectiveness of cropland policies influencing in Northeast China.