Land Use Efficiency

Research Progress and Discoveries Related to Cultivated Land Abandonment

  • CHEN Qianru ,
  • XIE Hualin , *
  • Institute of Ecological Civilization, Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics, Nanchang 330013, China
*. XIE Hualin, E-mail:

Received date: 2020-10-01

  Accepted date: 2020-12-20

  Online published: 2021-05-30

Supported by

The Research Project of Humanities and Social Sciences in Jiangxi Province(GL19111)

The Key Project of Jiangxi Natural Science Foundation(20202ACB203004)

The Science and Technology Project of Education Department in Jiangxi Province(GJJ200531)


Using bibliometric methods, this paper analyzes the total amount and keyword composition among 910 studies in the field of farmland abandonment published in the Web of Science database from 1992 to 2019. According to the usage of keywords, existing studies are reviewed from the three aspects of monitoring and mapping, driving forces and influencing factors, and effects assessment and trade-off. The results show that: (1) At present, the extraction and mapping of abandoned farmland data mainly rely on household surveys and remote sensing technology, and combing NDVI time series with spatial information can provide abandoned farmland data with high precision. (2) The driving forces and influencing factors of cultivated land abandonment have been summarized in terms of extent, sources and attributes, respectively. Cultivated land marginalization is the fundamental driving force of cultivated land abandonment, labor migration is the direct driving force, and changes in socio-economic factors are the main driving forces. (3) The environmental effects of cultivated land abandonment are spatially heterogeneous, and temporal-spatial differences, the landscape environment, climate, cultivation and topographic features will all play decisive roles in shaping the ultimate environmental effects. Studies of trade-offs between the impacts of cultivated land abandonment mainly focus on ecosystem service function and value, while the role of spatial background is often ignored. Based on a systematic review of existing literature, this paper suggests that future efforts should carry out large-scale investigations on abandoned cultivated land at the national level, conduct multi-scale research on the driving forces of land abandonment, and conduct trade-off research on the effects of land abandonment based on national conditions.

Cite this article

CHEN Qianru , XIE Hualin . Research Progress and Discoveries Related to Cultivated Land Abandonment[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2021 , 12(2) : 165 -174 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2021.02.004

1 Introduction

Land abandonment is one of the main forms of agricultural land use change (Osawa et al., 2016), which exists in many parts of the world, including North America, northern Europe, southern Europe, Spain and Asia (Cramer et al., 2008). Some scholars predict that land abandonment will continue in the coming decades (Rounsevell et al., 2006), and it continues to gain more and more attention. Governments of various countries have taken a series of measures to curb the trend of abandonment, such as the “Common Agricultural Policy” in the European Union (Milenov et al., 2014), and the “Urgent notice on resuming production in abandoned farmland as soon as possible” in China. In order to systematically review the literature in the field of cultivated land abandonment, this paper analyzes the total amount and composition of keywords in the existing literature based on the “bibliometric online analysis platform”. This study reviews the literature from three different perspectives according to the domains of the keywords, and discusses the future development directions, in order to provide a basis for the protection, utilization and management of cultivated land.
The research object of cultivated land abandonment usually includes cultivated land in a broad sense, including cultivated land/cropland/arable land and meadow. It emphasizes the termination of the land being utilized or managed as agricultural land, or the condition that farmland facilities are degraded to a state of very limited utility. In order to understand cultivated land abandonment more comprehensively, this paper takes cultivated land abandonment in the broad sense as the review object.

2 Materials and methods

2.1 Data source and literature processing

Based on the Web of Science database retrieval platform, the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-Expanded) in the Web of Science Core Collection is taken the data source. Taking “farmland abandonment”, “cropland abandonment”, “mapping abandoned land”, “mapping farmland abandonment” and “monitor farmland abandonment” as the themes, and cultivated land abandonment publications from 1990 to 2019 as the time-frame, the various themes yielded 464, 250, 281, 68 and 49 publications, respectively. All retrieved records were downloaded in TAB delimited (Win, UTF-8) format. In this study, all the citation data were uploaded to the “bibliometrics online analysis platform” and this system automatically merges all the publications and removes duplicate records. Then, the “total amount analysis” and “keyword analysis” were carried out, and the studies were reviewed by themes according to the domains of the keywords.

2.2 Total amount analysis

A total of 910 articles were obtained after merging and removing the duplicates. According to the number of papers published during 1992-2019, the research progress on cultivated land abandonment can be divided into three stages: starting stage (1992-2004), development stage (2005-2014), and blowout stage (2015-2019). Since 1992, the number of papers on cultivated land abandonment has shown an upward trend with fluctuations (Fig. 1), indicating that increasing attention has been paid to cultivated land abandonment. Especially since 2014, the number of published papers has increased dramatically, qualifying it as a research hotspot. The studies on cultivated land abandonment originated in Europe and America, which corresponds to the earlier industrialization processes in Europe and America. In terms of the total amount of literature, the regions with the largest numbers of published papers are Europe, Asia and America, but the top ten countries (in order) are China, the United States, Germany, Spain, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Poland and Portugal.
Fig. 1 Number of publications in each country during 1992‒2019

2.3 Keyword analysis

The keyword analysis of 910 publications on cultivated land abandonment during 1992‒2019 shows that the 17 keywords with the highest frequency are as follows: land abandonment, land use change, GIS, secondary succession, agricultural abandonment, land-sat, land-use change, land use, remote sensing, soil erosion, cropland abandonment, China, farmland abandonment, agriculture, biodiversity, conservation, and abandonment. Except for the three keywords of agricultural abandonment, land-sat, and cropland abandonment, the remaining 14 keywords appeared successively in the starting stage (1992‒2004), and their appearance frequency increased gradually in the development stage (2005‒2014) and the blowout stage (2015‒2019). This trend indicates that the related research became rich and mature. The two keywords of agricultural abandonment and Landsat, appeared frequently in 2007, which indicated that the research on land abandonment gradually expanded into the agricultural field, and Landsat satellite images began to be widely used for abandoned land identification in 2007 (Fig. 2).
Keyword analysis shows that the research on cultivated land abandonment mainly focuses on the following three aspects: monitoring and mapping, driving forces and influencing factors, and impact and trade-off (Table 1). The retrieved literature will be reviewed from these three aspects in detail.
Fig. 2 Distribution of keywords
Table 1 Research fields based on keyword analysis
Research field Keywords
Monitoring and mapping GIS, Land abandonment, Agricultural abandonment, Landsat, Remote sensing, Cropland abandonment, China, Farmland abandonment, Abandonment
Driving forces and influencing factors Land use change, Land-use change, Land use
Impact and trade-off* Secondary succession, Soil erosion, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Conservation

Note: *The term “trade-off” refers to the situation where the supplies of some types of ecosystem services are reduced by the increased consumption of other types of ecosystem services (Rodríguez et al., 2006). As a kind of balance and choice, ecosystem service trade-off can be understood as a comprehensive grasp of the relationships between various ecosystem services (Peng et al., 2017).

3 Monitoring and mapping of abandoned cultivated land

Agricultural land abandonment is a complex process of land use change, which may lead to a series of land cover types. Therefore, monitoring and mapping abandoned farmland is always a bit of a challenge. Limited by data and methods, studies on the monitoring and mapping of abandoned land were carried out on a small scale in the early stage, and most of them relied on farmer household surveys. While the farmer household survey has advantages in explaining farmers’ behavior mechanism (Li et al., 2014; Zhang et al., 2014), the accuracy of a questionnaire survey depends on the survey scale, spatial sampling method and survey technology, and its reliability depends on the farmers’ subjective reflection, so a study may have deficiencies in reflecting the overall situation and objectivity by adopting farmer household surveys. The rapid analysis of large areas only became possible after the emergence of remote sensing technology in the 1980s, benefiting from developments in geographic information systems, aerial photography, land use or land cover maps and cadastral records (Antrop, 1993; Lasanta et al., 2017). Remote sensing technology has an advantage in obtaining large-scale cultivated land abandonment information, enabling it to accurately reflect the overall situation and spatial-temporal evolution of cultivated land abandonment (Estel et al., 2015). It provides important basic data for regional land use simulation and policy making (Renwick et al., 2013).
Medium-resolution satellite sensors provide consistent data for the identification of abandoned land on a large geographic scale (Rogan and Chen, 2004; Gobron et al., 2005; Siebert et al., 2010). However, due to the existence of mixed pixels (Alcantara et al., 2013), the precision of large-scale abandoned land interpretation is not high (user accuracy is 40%-75%), and the precision of mountainous and hilly area interpretation is even lower (Estel et al., 2015). In addition, the existence of rotation fallow and farmland marginalization make it difficult to further distinguish between rotation and abandonment by remote sensing surveys in individual years, resulting in a less-than-ideal accuracy rate. However, it is more effective to identify abandoned land by extracting an NDVI time series curve from remote sensing data of continuous time phase (Alcantara et al., 2012). For example, Alcantara et al. (2013) drew abandoned maps in central and Eastern Europe by using MODIS time series data and Support Vector Machine classification. Estel et al. (2015) drew European fallow frequency maps, abandoned farmland maps and reclamation hot spot maps of unused land for the first time by using MODIS NDVI time series data.
However, some limitations still exist in mapping abandoned cultivated land by using NDVI time series data. First, the accuracy of maps drawn by this method is affected by satellite map accuracy. Second, due to the fuzzy spectral contrast in low-intensification areas, this method is limited to application in areas with reliable phenological characteristics. Third, the accuracy of abandoned land identification is affected by climate change (Estel et al., 2015). Besides, noise might be outputted since time series image analysis mainly focuses on pixel algorithms (Yu et al., 2016). Therefore, Schmidt et al. (2016) suggested generating annual cultivated land maps from complete Landsat archives by combining spatial, spectral and temporal information. By taking advantage of the spatial advantages, mapping abandoned agricultural land according to target (e.g., plot) can reduce the uncertainty of the resulting pixel map. For example, Yin et al. (2018) used the spatiotemporal segmentation of Landsat time series images to monitor the scope and exact timing of cultivated land abandonment in the Caucasus by three steps. First, generate agricultural land image targets from multi-temporal Landsat images by using a multi-resolution segmentation approach. Second, based on the Landsat time spectrum index and a random forest model, estimate the probability of farmland being used in each year. Third, use the temporal segmentation of the probability time series to identify the change category, and monitor when abandonment occurs. The results show that the precision of the abandoned land map drawn by targets (97%) is better than that of the pixel map (82%). Using time series NDVI data to extract abandoned land requires the interpretation of multiphase continuous optical image data in a short time, so it is difficult to apply this method in cloudy and rainy areas which lack optical data. However, abandoned land can be accurately identified by combing cultivated land plot data and time series NDVI, and the identification accuracy of abandoned land by this method can reach 90.7% under farmland extraction accuracy of 95.56% (Wang et al., 2020).
Considering the characteristics of farmer household surveys and remote sensing technology for identifying abandoned farmland, it is necessary to apply these methods according to research demands, and to combine the two in a timely manner to improve the accuracy and timeliness in extracting the information of abandoned farmland. Meanwhile, it is urgent to further develop multi-source remote sensing survey technology that is suitable for extracting abandoned land in hilly and mountainous areas where farmland is fragmented. In addition, grey literature can also be used to understand the spatial-temporal process and evolution trend of cultivated land abandonment.

4 Driving forces and influencing factors of cultivated land abandonment

Abandoned cultivated land is a complex human-earth interaction system that develops under multiple driving forces (Yang et al., 2020). It results from the comprehensive effect of socio-economic and natural physical subsystems. Under the driving forces of cultivated land abandonment, those factors that hinder the effective adjustment of cultivated land use modes for adapting to the increased cost or decreased output caused by the driving forces constitute the decisive factors of the spatial differences of abandonment risk and abandonment rate (Terres et al., 2013). Research on the driving forces of cultivated land abandonment began in the 1980s. According to the extent of effects, source and attribute, the driving forces and influencing factors are classified into different types as follows.

4.1 Classification by the extent of effects

According to the extent of their effects, the driving forces are classified as either fundamental driving forces, direct driving forces or main driving forces (Table 2). Cultivated land marginalization caused by the rising opportunity cost of farming is considered as the necessary condition and fundamental cause of cultivated land abandonment. Cultivated land marginalization results from a zero or negative income of cultivated land, which is beyond the rent-free margin. Rational farmers lose the motivation to continue farming on unprofitable cultivated land, resulting in cultivated land marginalization and further abandonment (Li and Li, 2016). According to the marginal return of different land quality levels, compared with fertile and medium land, poor land is usually prone to be abandoned first (Ding et al., 2009).
Table 2 Types of driving forces classified by the extent of their effect
Types Driving forces Connotations
Fundamental driving force Cultivated land margination Zero return on cultivated land;
Negative return on cultivated land
Direct driving force Labor
The decline of labor quantity and
Main driving force Changes in socio-economic factors Migration and the non-agricultural shift of the rural population resulting from urbanization and industrialization;
Decreased land-use net income caused by changes in market demand, international trade development and increased price of agricultural materials, etc.
Agricultural policy adjustment;
Land system reform;
Agricultural technology upgrading;
Agricultural commercialization, etc.
Rural labor migration is regarded as the direct driving force of cultivated land abandonment (Li and Li, 2016). In addition to the decrease in labor quantity, it also includes the decline of agricultural labor capacity brought on by the aging of the agricultural labor force due to young labor transfer (Romero-Calcerrada and Perry, 2004). Patrick (2016) believes that the quality of labor, rather than its quantity, is usually one of the decisive factors for cultivated land abandonment or reclamation. The process of cultivated land abandonment in European mountainous areas in the middle of the 20th century verified the direct effect of agricultural labor transfer on farmland abandonment (André, 1998; MacDonald, 2000). Terrain differences lead to different degrees of the substitution of machinery for labor, and the impact of labor transfer on land abandonment in hilly and mountainous areas is more prominent than that in plain areas.
Changes in socio-economic factors are the main driving force of cultivated land abandonment, including the non-agricultural shift of the rural population, the decline of land return, and land system reform, among others (Li and Li, 2016). For example, the first documented case of cultivated land abandonment, which originated in France in the early 19th century and spread to other Western European countries in the early 20th century (Debussche et al., 1999; Taillefumier and Piegay, 2003; Chauchard et al., 2007), was a result of the collapse of mountain communities (García- Ruiz and Lana-Renault, 2011). Similarly, the abandonment which occurred in some new EU member states, such as the Baltic States, was caused by the post-socialist economic development (Moravec and Zemeckis, 2007). In China, land abandonment is related to land management systems, such as the household contract responsibility system, consolidation of land contract rights and the imperfect land circulation market (Jin and Deininger, 2009; Zhang et al., 2014).

4.2 Classification by source

According to their sources, the influencing factors are classified into external factors and internal factors. External factors, such as labor transfer, social economic models and public policy, play a catalytic role in the process of cultivated land abandonment, triggering the occurrence of abandonment (Lasanta et al., 2017). Among them, the catalytic effect of policy measures is the most significant. For example, the EU’s fallow policy has promoted the occurrence of cultivated land abandonment (Walford, 2002); specifically, Article 2079/92 of the European Community allows farmers over 60 years old to take early retirment,catalyzing the occurrence of land abandonment. On the contrary, the common agricultural policy (CAP) measures, suchas agricultural environmental subsidies, provide additional income for agricultural land, thus effectively alleviating land abandonment (Lasanta and Marín-Yaseli, 2007). However, the effect of subsidies on alleviating abandonment varies in different regions (Sang et al., 2014). As an important agricultural policy tool to alleviate abandonment, it is necessary to fully understand the operational mode of subsidies and the regional environment for the implementation of subsidies, such as population, biophysical resources and the feasibility of land leasing.
Internal factors, i.e., agro-ecological factors, socio-economic factors and agricultural property characteristics, play a decisive role in the dynamics, extent, scope and regional localization of abandonment (Table 3). Among them, agro- ecological or biophysical factors determine the productivity and profitability of cultivated land; socio-economic factors may result in abandonment of the entirety of a given area or just a specific plot; and attention should be paid to “population migration” among agricultural property characteristics (Lasanta et al., 2017).
Table 3 Internal factors of cultivated land abandonment
Agro-ecological or biophysical factors Socio-economic factors Agricultural property characteristics
Soil depletion Weak competitiveness of land products Low active population proportion in cultivated land location
Climate limitations High land cost Low farmer proportion
Steep slope Under-capitalization Population migration
Small plot Difficulties in land leasing Farmland heirs in default
Difficulty of mechanized operation Specific land competitiveness Family heritage disputes
Poor land plot accessibility Economic substitution Difficulty of cultivated land capitalization
Far distance from villages or countryside Urbanization Working capacity
Soil degradation, erosion, or salinization Extensive/intensive management

4.3 Classification by attribute

According to their attributes, the influencing factors are classified into physical factors, socio-economic factors and management factors. Physical factors refer to the factors related to geophysics, physical geography and ecology, and environmental factors that may limit agricultural production. Socio-economic factors include market changes, population mobility, etc. Management factors are related to the development and defects of the land management system, which may easily lead to soil degradation and overexploitation (Table 4). Among these three types of factors, the most decisive are the socio-economic factors, followed in sequence by management factors and physical factors (Rey Benayas et al., 2007).
Table 4 Influencing factors of cultivated land abandonment classified by attribute
Geography-biology- physics Socio-economic Management
Elevation Market incentives Unsuitable agricultural system
Geology Population migration Poor land management
Slope Technology Land degradation
Fertility Industrialization Frequent floods
Soil depth Agricultural characteristics Over exploitation
Soil erosion Farmer age Productivity loss
Climate Accessibility

5 Effects, simulation and tradeoff of cultivated land abandonment

5.1 Effects of cultivated land abandonment

Land abandonment is a complex process of interactions between regional and global factors, as well as environmental and human factors (Allison and Hobbs, 2004; Peter et al., 2010). It will lead to plant succession and vegetation restoration in abandoned areas, and hence it results in a series of environmental, landscape and socio-economic effects (Gellrich et al., 2007; García-Ruiz and Lana-Renault, 2011; Lasanta et al., 2015). More than the abandoned areas and local residents, cultivated land abandonment will also affect the goods and services provided by agricultural land, and lead to changes in rural land use, agricultural landscape and farmer livelihood, thereby having a profound impact on the whole society (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2003).5.1.1 Environmental effects of cultivated land abandonmentCultivated land abandonment is not a linear process, but includes different transitional stages (Meyfroidt and Lambin, 2008). Spatial-temporal differences may lead to different abandonment tracks (Valbuena et al., 2010; Munroe et al., 2013). When combined with the spatial heterogeneity of environmental conditions in different regions, these tracks may bring about different effects of land abandonment on the environment due to varied spatial and research scales (Chazdon, 2008; Ramankutty and Rhemtulla, 2012).The effect of land abandonment on the environment may be either positive or negative due to differences in site, scope or duration. Cultivated land abandonment and subsequent natural vegetation succession and restoration will change rural land use and the agricultural landscape. Specifically, it may reverse the declining trend of forested area caused by economic growth, promote forest restoration, increase biodiversity, and increase the forest carbon sink, thereby improving the agricultural ecosystem and bringing about positive eco-environmental effects (Cramer et al., 2008; Pointereau et al., 2008). However, as the process of vegetation restoration may be quite slow, it will take a long time to manifest its positive role (Bielsa et al., 2005). The abandonment of highly intensive land can also effectively reduce the pollution from agricultural chemicals (Milenov et al., 2014). However, cultivated land abandonment may also produce negative effects such as agricultural landscape damage and increased disaster risk, so it has attracted increasing attention from governments and academia (MacDonald et al., 2000; Moravec and Zemeckis, 2007). The determinants, scenarios, case areas and outcomes regarding the impact of cultivated land abandonment on biodiversity, landscape, soil and natural disasters, and other parameters are summarized in Table 5.
Table 5 Environmental effects of cultivated land abandonment
Type Determinant Scenario Effect Case area Discoveries
Effects on biodiversity Spatial heterogeneity Agricultural open area Habitat loss leads to biodiversity loss Scandinavia The effect of abandonment on natural vegetation restoration varies with time, and this process reveals a dynamic mode of the effect of abandonment on biodiversity that has not been fully understood (Cernusca et al., 1996; Milenov et al., 2014)
Highly intensive cultivated land Species invasion leads to increased biodiversity Europe
Temporal heterogeneity Early stage of abandonment Invasion of dominant species leads to decreased biodiversity Alps
Middle stage of abandonment Canopy cover may lead to increased biodiversity Alps
Late stage of abandonment Forest canopy closure may lead to decreased biodiversity Alps
Effects on landscape Landscape environment The decline in net agricultural income promotes structural changes National heritage landscape formed by traditional slash and burn cultivation is in recession Finland In different landscape environments, cultivated land abandonment may lead to the increase of landscape homogeneity or heterogeneity on different spatial scales. However, it should be noted that landscape preference is strongly influenced by cultural and social interpretations (Guillot et al., 1998; MacDonald et al., 2000)
Shrub and forest regenerated Open pastures and open spaces are lost Finland
Farm consolidation or cessation of operations Scattered farm settlements are lost Finland
Vegetation growth Improve landscape Vardousia
Effects on soil and natural
Duration Short term Increase the risk of natural disasters Spain Active intervention on abandoned land may help to maintain or restore environmental stability (Garcia-Ruiz et al., 1991; Gonzalez, 1991; Di Pietro and Balent, 1997; MacDonald et al., 2000; Milenov et al., 2014; Chen et al., 2017)
Long term Regeneration of shrub and tree reduces the risk of natural disasters and enhances slope stability Spain
Climate characteristics Arid region After abandonment, the grass becomes dry and rough, increasing fire risk and threatening natural and agricultural animals and plants Mediterranean
Arid climate zone Accelerate soil erosion, and it may interact with fire, thus accelerating soil erosion in turn, resulting in desertification eventually Mediterranean
Cultivation characteristics Highly intensive plots Reduce agricultural chemical
pollution in soil
Terrain features Terrace area Exacerbate soil loss China
5.1.2 Socio-economic effects of cultivated land abandonment
Cultivated land abandonment will lead directly to a substantial reduction in the crop sown area, resulting in varying degrees of grain production reduction, which will then lead to regional food shortage (Feng et al., 2005), threatening national food security. At the same time, cultivated land abandonment will inevitably bring about rural social problems, such as empty nesters, hollow villages, and left- behind children. The destructiveness of cultivated land
abandonment toward landscape aesthetics and cultural heritage (van Eetvelde and Antrop, 2004; Stoate et al., 2010; Fischer et al., 2012) may weaken the tourism and entertainment functions of cultivated land, further exacerbating economic losses, affecting regional economic stability (Enserink and Vogel, 2006; Bauer et al., 2009; Wilson, 2004), and thus having a negative impact on local farmer livelyhood (Raj Khanal and Watanabe, 2006; Knoke et al., 2013) and deepening rural poverty, triggering farmers’ negative attitudes towards the consequences brought about by land abandonment such as landscape damage (Buijs et al., 2006).

5.2 Research progress on the simulation of cultivated land abandonment

Studying the land use process simulation and trade-offs helps to identify potential conflicts between competing land functions, balance conflicting multi-dimensional interest objectives, and maximize comprehensive benefits between present and future, local and global, and primary and secondary objectives.
Methods and models such as CAPRI, CLUE-S, DynaCLUE, the multiscale modeling method and the multiagent model are widely used in the simulation and prediction of spatial-temporal trends of cultivated land abandonment (van der Zanden et al., 2017). For example, under the behavioral decision-making framework of CategoryBelief-Desire-Intention (CBDI) and taking Fengyangwa village, Mizhi County, Shaanxi Province as an example, Song et al. (2016, 2018) used MAS multi-agent model to simulate farmers’ farmland abandonment behavior, which provided a micro theoretical basis for the analysis of farmers’ cultivated land abandonment behavior. Studies on the trade-off of cultivated land abandonment mainly focus on ecosystem services. For example, while increased agricultural productivity increases soil organic carbon content, it also aggravates the risk of agricultural chemical and nutrient pollution (Peng et al., 2017). Van der Zanden et al. (2017) selected eight indicators on the forefront of the agricultural abandonment debate, namely, carbon sequestration and emission, forest fire vulnerability, outdoor recreation, habitat suitability for large mammals, alien species risk, crop area, farmland species richness and cultural heritage, to conduct a European-scale impact assessment and trade-off analysis of the possible effects of agricultural abandonment. Their results indicated that location and scale are the keys for assessing the trade-offs originating from agricultural abandonment in Europe. The identification of typical trade-off bundles can help to distinguish potential desirable outcomes of agricultural abandonment and assist in targeting measures to areas that face similar management challenges. In addition, some scholars use decision trees to analyze the environmental effects and agricultural production costs of land abandonment, and then conduct trade-off analysis among the diversified effects (Patrick et al., 2016), so as to further enrich the application value of cultivated land abandonment research.
At present, the trade-off studies on the impact of cultivated land abandonment on ecosystem services are mainly concentrated in Europe. Although the spatial heterogeneity of the impact of land abandonment on ecosystem services has been noted in the past studies (MacDonald et al., 2000; Navarro and Pereira, 2012), the role of the spatial background related to the trade-offs of land abandonment is often ignored. Future research should try to reveal the spatial diversity of trade-offs of potential abandonment effects, so as to generate effective interventions on the possible land abandonment trends in the future. In addition, in the trade-off studies of different dimensions, such as environmental or socio-economic effects, prioritized objectives or differentiated weights can be set according to different protection and management objectives, or certain restrictions can be set according to environmental carrying capacity and the analysis of agricultural operating costs and benefits, so as to make effective trade-offs among the diversified effects caused by cultivated land abandonment.

6 Conclusions and prospects

In the above studies, monitoring and mapping are the cornerstones for the in-depth study of cultivated land abandonment. Accurate extraction of cultivated land abandonment information provides spatial distribution information for studies on the driving forces, trade-offs and simulation, so as to provide the theoretical and practical basis for understanding cultivated land abandonment objectively and adopting scientifically sound countermeasures.
Existing publications show that farmer household surveys and remote sensing interpretation are both effective ways to extract information on abandoned cultivated land. Farmer household surveys help reveal the mechanisms of farmer households’ cultivated land abandonment behavior, while remote sensing interpretation is more suitable for the identification of abandoned cultivated land on a large scale. Currently, the shock of the COVID-19 epidemic has intensified the impact of abandoned farmland on food security. Therefore, it is urgent for China to carry out an accurate abandoned farmland survey at the national level, to clarify the cultivated land utilization status, in order to guarantee the continuation of national food security by optimizing the allocation of cultivated land resources. In this process, it is necessary to combine large-scale remote sensing interpretation with farmer household surveys. We can try to use multi-temporal data, multi-source remote sensing data and leading-edge remote sensing technologies and methods, in order to make breakthroughs in the research of monitoring and mapping abandoned cultivated land.
The identification of driving forces and influencing factors of cultivated land abandonment helps us to understand the mechanisms of abandonment formation, and provides a scientific basis for the construction of regional land use pattern change models and the spatial evaluation of abandonment risk. Due to factors such as farmers’ characteristics, plot characteristics, or socio-economic characteristics, the degrees and directions of influence of the different types of driving forces on land abandonment are different. For example, agricultural labor transfer is considered to be an important factor that leads to cultivated land abandonment, but controversies still exist in the specific links or processes by which that labor transfer works (Shi, 2020). Therefore, when studying the driving forces of cultivated land abandonment, attention should be paid to the interactions between the driving forces and their specific backgrounds. The mechanisms of cultivated land abandonment present spatial-temporal differences on different scales, so macro, meso and micro scales should be fully covered in studying the driving forces.
A correct understanding of the effect of cultivated land abandonment is the basis of scientific decision-making. Attention should be paid to the relationships between the various environmental effects, so as to develop scientific governance strategies and ecological restoration modes, and realize the synergetic promotion of various environmental benefits. In the trade-off study of different dimensions, such as the environmental or socio-economic effects, it is necessary to treat the comprehensive influence of cultivated land abandonment dialectically by taking the national strategy, ecological security pattern and current food security status into consideration. Then the simulation or trade-off research can be carried out on it, in order to develop coping strategies based on scientific evaluation.
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