PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2016, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (2): 159-172.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2016.02.003

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Review on China’s spatially-explicit historical land cover datasets and reconstruction methods

Xuhong YANG(), Xiaobin JIN*(), Yinan LIN, Juan HAN, Yinkang ZHOU   

  1. College of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
  • Received:2015-05-01 Accepted:2015-08-01 Online:2016-02-10 Published:2016-02-10
  • Contact: Xiaobin JIN;
  • Supported by:
    National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program), No.2011CB952001;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41340016, No.41201386;The Graduate Scientific Research Innovation Project of Education Department of Jiangsu Province, China, No.KYLX15_0040


Constructing a spatially-explicit time series of historical land cover dataset is of upmost importance for climatic and ecological studies that make use of land use and cover change (LUCC) data. Some scholars have made efforts to simulate and reconstruct quantitatively information on China's historical land use. Due to the multiple sources of land use data, diversity of reconstruction approaches, and different methods of verification, the reconstruction results of spatially-explicit historical land cover datasets significantly differ. To better understand China's historical land cover datasets and provide effective references for future reconstruction study, it is necessary to comprehensively summarize and discuss the reconstruction methods. By comparing the characteristics of different historical land cover datasets, this research thoroughly analyzed the conceptual constructs, assumptions, reconstruction methods, and validation of the models. The main conclusions are as follows: (1) The majority of the research methods starts with reconstruction of the quantity of historical land cover and then proceeds to spatial pattern reconstruction. Given the lack of adequate and reliable historical data, making reasonable hypotheses about basic data, factors controlling distribution, and limiting factors is an important condition for attaining sound reconstruction results. (2) Methodologically, the majority of the studies uses the reduction method based on historical records and the reconstruction method based on spatial models that consist of the "top-down" method of spatial distribution and the "bottom-up" method of evolutional reconstruction models. (3) In order to improve the explanatory power of the results, it is necessary to validate the reconstruction output of historical land cover datasets in detail. While direct validation of reconstruction results is a more precise method, it is often restricted by the spatiotemporal scales of the research and data sources. Indirect validation method provides an important alternative for accuracy evaluation of the reconstruction results.

Key words: land cover, historical period, spatial pattern reconstruction, China