Journal of Resources and Ecology ›› 2019, Vol. 10 ›› Issue (3): 235-245.DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764X.2019.03.001

Special Issue: 中国耕地资源与粮食安全

• Cultivated Land Resources and Land Use •     Next Articles

Spatial and Temporal Variation of Cropland at the Global Level from 1992 to 2015

TAN Minghong1,2,*(), LI Yuanyuan3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    2. International College, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk Assessment, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing 100012, China
  • Received:2018-10-19 Accepted:2018-12-28 Online:2019-05-30 Published:2019-05-30
  • Contact: TAN Minghong
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China (91325302).


Correlated increases in population and demand for food over recent decades have caused remarkable changes in cropland area globally. Utilizing the latest data product provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), this paper analyzes annual trends and spatiotemporal variations in cropland area and discusses cropland conversion, losses, and increases globally between 1992 and 2015 at a 300 m resolution. The results show that the global area of cropland increased rapidly between 1992 and 2004, more slowly between 2004 and 2012, and began to decrease gradually since 2012. First, an increasing trend in cropland area has been maintained solely in Africa; all other regions are characterized by decreasing trends in later periods despite different transition points and change rates. A reduction in cropland area frequently emerged earlier in high-income countries. Second, increase rates in cropland area have largely decreased in recent years while the overall rate of loss has remained almost the same. Hotspot areas of global cropland increases are mainly concentrated around the edge of the Amazon forest, Eurasian Steppe, and Sahara Desert. These hotspot areas of global cropland loss shifted from Europe to Asia while built-up areas have expanded at the expense of cropland.

Key words: global cropland, cropland conversion, spatiotemporal variation, economic level