, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 454-465

Modeling the Driving Forces of the Land Use and Land Cover Changes Along the Upper Yangtze River of China

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Induced by high population density, rapid but uneven economic growth, and historic resource exploitation, China’s upper Yangtze basin has witnessed remarkable changes in land use and cover, which have resulted in severe environmental consequences, such as flooding, soil erosion, and habitat loss. This article examines the causes of land use and land cover change (LUCC) along the Jinsha River, one primary section of the upper Yangtze, aiming to better understand the human impact on the dynamic LUCC process and to support necessary policy actions for more sustainable land use and environmental protection. Using a repeated cross-sectional dataset covering 31 counties over four time periods from 1975 to 2000, we develop a fractional logit model to empirically determine the effects of socioeconomic and institutional factors on changes for cropland, forestland, and grassland. It is shown that population expansion, food self-sufficiency, and better market access drove cropland expansion, while industrial development contributed significantly to the increase of forestland and the decrease of other land uses. Similarly, stable tenure had a positive effect on forest protection. Moreover, past land use decisions were less significantly influenced by distorted market signals. We believe that these and other findings carry important policy implications.